When a Novelist Wishes She Could Write Short Stories

File this under: Current Distractions.

"Yield to Whim" by Frank Foreman, 1983, on the road leading to the Djerassi Resident Artists Program

I know I’m working on a new novel proposal right now, quite possibly two, and I know I just revised a novel and will be revising said novel again soon enough—did you see that 17 & Gone has a season? It does! Spring 2013! Plus, I’ve been gobbling up a strange array of novels since I landed at the artist colony, but I can’t seem to quit my attachment to short stories.

I adore short stories.

In fact, I wrote a story just a couple of weeks ago, and it was a wild, familiar experience I’d forgotten, and all I can think is how I want to write more. What is it about a short story that calls to me so much? I really don’t think it’s all about the length… though how nice to write something under 300 pages, right? (I won’t tell you the current page count of 17 & Gone.) I think it’s more about the experience of reading short stories: intense, exquisite bursts of attention. And then it’s over. I like that feeling. I also like how, in a story, every moment is there for a reason, every single word is significant. For someone who loves a good sentence as much as I do, it’s the perfect form.

And yet, for someone who can’t seem to shut up, the way I do, a novel really is more suited to my writing… but I can cheat a little, can’t I? Not to mention that, often, a short story for me can be the jumping-off point for a new novel. Imaginary Girls was first conceived as a short story, after all.

I want to write some more stories this year, and I want to start sending out to journals again like I haven’t in years. Maybe I’ll somehow get myself to a summer workshop so I can work on this.

After I finish those novel drafts, of course.

Do you love short stories, too? Tell me why!

3 responses to “When a Novelist Wishes She Could Write Short Stories”

  1. Short stories are the only thing I know how to write (besides screenplays, which I’ve only ever written with a partner) and are also my favorite thing to read. I wonder if that is a coincidence.


  2. Yes, I *do* love short stories. That’s what I’m mostly reading right now, the thin layer of ganache between layers of novels. Or maybe they are more like sorbet between courses. Whatever, they are wonderful in their own right and are totally hitting the spot at the moment.

    Also nifty: We both have book coming out Spring 2013. Mine is thin as a zipper. I imagine books are sort of like dogs: Borzoi and Chinese Crested–it hardly seems possible they are both the same sort of animal.


  3. I love reading and writing short stories (and never quite understood why short stories aren’t read more widely by the general public!). I just finished up a novel I’d been working on for years, and about to start another I’m really excited about, but short stories are a wonderful thing to write in-between. I often feel more free when writing a short story — like the short page count gives me a chance to really dive in and explore crazy/dark/bizarre/risky things. Novels should do that too, of course, but there’s just something about that short form.

    As much as I love short stories, I really, really love writing novels. Sometimes I worry, though: Can I truly be one of those writers who can successfully write both short stories *and* novels? Or am I deep down more suited for stories? Not sure yet.


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