Writing a Novel Versus a Short Story

So, I started writing again in October when I got the itch to finish a novel I started 10 years ago.  Instead, I started writing short stories, hoping this would help me figure out HOW to write. Back then, I told myself I couldn’t write and gave up on it completely.

This time around, I realize you can learn to write, to some extent, so I’ve been focusing on short stories. I took 4 online writing classes which taught me a TON! They are here:

Well, my first “short story” ended up at 11,000 words and I chose to expand it into a novel again. (Long story here: I’ll Never Write Another Novel! (I thought)) Funny that the Novel I intended to finish back in October is in a drawer again.  It’s a vampire novel and I really don’t know if the world needs another one of those.  To my defense, I started writing it pre-Twilight.  I may still finish this during July’s Camp NaNoWriMo and put it on Wattpad.  Why do some characters insist you tell their stories?

Anyway, now that I’ve written 30+ Short stories since October and another novel (that’s 2 ½ I’ve completed) I was reflecting on the difference between them. Here is what I’ve discovered.

  1. I thought that in short stories EVERY word mattered, but novels were more forgiving. That’s not true. Every word matters, no matter what you are writing.
  2. You need to narrow the idea down a TON for a short story, otherwise the plot gets out of hand and you end up with a novel crammed into a 10,000 word story. (I have 6 of these saved on my computer that I don’t know what to do with yet.) Novels have the full 3 act structure. Short stories still need a beginning, middle, and an end, but they need to be less complex.
  3. Break the novel down into scenes and treat each scene like a short story. Focus on making each scene a perfect story. This is probably the most successful thing I do that made me reach the end of my current project. It simplifies the whole process and keeps me going.
  4. Novels have more of everything: more characters, more plots/subplots, and more words. This complexity makes it harder to track what you’ve said already and what you’ve haven’t and you need some method of organization.
  5. Just when I would get sick of a short story, it was done. A novel takes much longer. You get more attached to the characters, the story, and the problem, but yet, it is hard to finish because at some point you just want to be done and you know you have a lot to do yet.
  6. Finding someone to read and give you feedback is much harder for a novel. (Though, finding a good beta reader or any readers in general.)

What do you feel are the biggest differences between writing the different length projects?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!


(Photo from morguefile.com)



  1. I just love Holly Lisle. I’ve learned an absolute ton from her, and can vouch for her ‘How to Write Flash Fiction that Doesn’t Suck’ course. If the others you linked to are on par with it, I’ll be sure to check them out.

    I had the same impressions about novels being a bit more forgiving, but I should’ve known better than to think that there would be any form of writing that would be considered ‘easier’.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I used to think writing a short story involved a less complex idea. Not so. It just involves a shorter story arch. My friend Phillip Thompson and I are both guilty of inserting old short stories into our novels, though they were just fine standing on their own. It just turned out we’d found part of our story before we found the overall story it fit into.

    I’ve found myself working on short stories in between novel ideas. Sometimes they help jostle a bigger story loose. Sometimes they just help me keep writing when, otherwise, I’d just go nuts.

    It sounds like you’ve been very prolific lately. Feel free to hit me up on Camp Nano or NaNoWriMo, jaylamborn.

    Thanks for a great read. Checking out your resources. I’ve gained a lot from following emails and posts from Jeff Goins, Jerry Jenkins, and Ted Dekker lately.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks or the comment! I’m definitely checking out Jeff, Jerry, and Ted as you described. I just joined camp nano and will be doing the full event in November, so I don’t quite know how all that works. I did find you and you have quite a word count goal! Wow, ambitious!


  3. I used to hate writing short stories. Now they’re pretty much the only thing I write (0.o) (I just finished writing a long thing though), probably because of time / brain space restrictions. I kind of miss long things… starting one for Camp NaNo, which is nice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I’m still struggling to find what I like to write. So far, I like it all, but there isn’t enough hours in a day for me to write all that I want to. Good luck on the longer project for Camp NaNo!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oooh. Thank you very much for those links! I am intrigued. I’ve had a dabble in Start Writing Fiction myself, and am having a second attempt, with the aim to finish it this time. I feel like, reading your post, I’m looking at where I want to be a year or so down the track … and I absolutely just want to take the time to applaud you for being so productive!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the ‘applause’! I’m way to OCD about things – I jump in and that’s all I can do. I really need to work better on balance. Oh well, I’ll figure that out sometime. I just want to have a nice selection of completed projects I’m happy with. I’m not there yet. The ‘Writing Flash Fiction that Doesn’t Suck’ was my favorite course of the above and it’s only 3 weeks long (and free). The Start Writing Fiction course – I made it to the end, but rushed through it. It wasn’t as exciting as I would have liked.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I prefer writing short stories, fiction, but could not find a market even remotely close to what I wrote (except those magazines where you get published but not paid).
    Now I wrote a novel…. At first I found it difficult to get beyond page 12, but once I managed that hurdle, I was hooked and things went all the way to 52,000.
    I will try the free courses you listed. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Congrats on the novel! What are you going to do with it? I’m starting to think about that for mine too. I hate for it to sit in a drawer. Enjoy the free courses! It’s always nice hearing someone’s perspective on writing — it’s funny though that the teachers of all four classes all had a different method for writing. Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You made a lot of really good points. I really liked what you said about how every scene in a novel should be like a short story. I’ve heard that each scene should have its arc, but I’ve never had it described like that and it really gives me a different perspective. I think a lot of my scenes are kind of purposeless, so thank you for this!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m not a writer; that is, I’ve never written a short story or a novel, even though I think to myself that one day (bad excuse, I know) I will try it out. Meanwhile, I test my writing skills here with short nothings and see how I go with that. I figure that all these nothing may inspire me to do more. I’m still not there. I admire you and many others that actually do the work and write it down. Kudos to you. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve become a major fan of short stories in my quest to write one a month this year. Very neat article you have here on the process and what you’ve learned. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment! I hope you enjoy Holly Lisle as much as I do. I’ve written a ton of flash fiction after taking her class – when before the class I had no idea where to start to write such a short story.


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