Short Form, Best Form

When young people write, they write (or at least attempt to write) novels. I’m not sure if this reflects the writing circles I interact with, but this seems to be the general rule, especially for millennials. But, is writing a novel, or even a novella, really worth the time? Surely, one could argue that writing a novel is difficult and time-consuming, and yet a worthy endeavor. On the other hand, writing an equally well written piece in a shorter form (short story, article, poem, and so on) is equally as difficult and worthy. When choosing a form for your writing, you might want to consider:

  1. There is more media to compete with in this era. With the advent of the internet, blogging communities, shopping online, and ebooks, is it necessarily fair to your talents to pour all your time and effort into completing a novel only for it to fall to the bottom of the slush pile on some intern’s desk at a publishing house? No. By investing time and effort into shorter pieces, you have more opportunities to publish your work, and to create a presence for your work and your name.
  2. The average attention span of people is decreasing. Again, the internet has brought many wonderful things including a surplus of information. With this constant competition for readers’ attention, it is no surprise that the average attention span is decreasing. Even if a longer form is published does not guarantee that readers will enjoy it, or even  finish it.
  3. Money. If you do choose the writing life, balance working on a novel with freelancing jobs. Even if your novel never sees the light of day, you will come out of the experience with a decent sized portfolio of writing as well as pocket change. If freelancing isn’t your thing, you might consider balancing your novel writing with writing short forms (short stories, poems, articles, etc.) and entering it in contests with monetary prizes.
  4. Why spend the time and effort to express something that could be expressed with less time and effort? A shorter form takes less time to write, and may be considered by some to be less impressive than a novel. Alternatively, the message is clearer with fewer words and provides readers with less things that could be misunderstood due to personal interpretation. The amount of words used to clearly express an idea or message has an inverse relationship to the power of said message.

So, for writers who aren’t already established novelists, the short form may indeed be the best form–or at least, a variety of forms that one writes may be the best choice. What do you think? Should writers write in a variety of forms? Only short forms? Only lengthy forms? Post comments below.

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2 responses to “Short Form, Best Form

  1. I don’t know the numbers, but it can be pretty difficult to place a short story. I’d love to see acceptance ratios comparing the short story to the novel. But short stories are great training for a novel. And I think most people write them because they might pay. Wouldn’t it be nice if we still lived in a time when short stories were enough?

    • I hear you. I think it’s hard to place a short story, but harder to place a novel. The nice thing about short stories is that it’s minimal time invested, so if it is a flop you can still learn from it without having the feeling of spending too much time and energy on it. If it’s not a flop, selling and publishing short stories can be a good way to attract attention from publishers for a novel.

      Sometimes I wish I lived in the times when short stories were enough, but then I think, “LOL you would still be a woman and that would suck.”

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