I started out as a short-story writer. In those days, writing a 2000 word tale seemed like a major achievement, and while I always wanted to be a novelist, completing a 100,000 word story was a daunting and distant prospect. But I progressed to longer and longer works, and to date have completed three full-length novels, with my fourth (and, actually, fifth) in progress. Novels no longer seem quite so daunting. They're just a bunch more typing. But I continue to write short stories as well. That may seem like a distraction from novel-writing, but I see good reasons for doing so.
Firstly, novels take a while to write. That's pretty obvious. What do you do with all the story ideas that come to you while you're bashing your way through one? Some can be woven into the novel you're on - I love it when that happens - and some will be ideas for future novels. But some won't warrant full-length treatment. They can be turned into a fully-fledged short or flash story in a matter of hours. When you're six months into a long novel, that immediacy can be very refreshing.
I'm one of the admins over at Write1Sub1 - essentially a hangout for writers who are attempting to write and submit a new short story (or poem) each month - or even each week. Monthly works for me, but it's the sense of community that really helps. That and the thought of having a deadline to meet, even if it is self-imposed.
Short stories can give you a good way into the novel-writing process, too. At least one of my novels grew out of a short story. I had characters I thought I was done with, but they had other ideas, refusing to go gently into that good night. I also find having another story to turn to while I'm mulling over some nightmarish plot point is invaluable. So much better than staring at a blank page. And having a short story accepted for publication by a magazine is a wonderful antidote to those mid-novel "who am I kidding here, I can't write" jitters…
So writing both works for me. It won't for everyone, sure, but we all have to find our own path through the strange mazes of writerdom. What works best for you?
Simon's YA fantasy novel Hedge Witch is officially launched at midnight on April 30th (Beltane), but it's already available on Amazon.
Fifteen year-old Cait Weerd has no idea she's being sought by the undain: sorcerous creatures that feed off the spirit of the living. She doesn't know they need her blood to survive. She doesn't even know she's a witch, descended from a long line of witches. Cait Weerd doesn't know a lot, really, but all that's about to change.
At Manchester Central Library she's caught up in sudden violence. In the chaos she's given an old book that's been hidden there. Given it and told to run. Hide the book or destroy it. The book contains all the secrets of the undains' existence. They and their human servants want to find it as much as they want to find her.
Cait learns the fates of two worlds are at stake. Just what she needs. Along with definitely-not-a-boyfriend Danny, she has to decide what the hell to do. Run, fight or hope it all goes away.
It's only then she learns who she really is, along with the terrible truth of what the undain have been doing in our world all this time...