I have two roughly-complete novels sitting on my hard drive, awaiting some final touches. Nothing is ever quite done though, and so they remain there for a little longer.
In the meantime, I figured a short story collection might be a good way to explore the realm of indie publishing. After all, a short story is a little bit easier than a novel. Much shorter, much smoother. Right?
Well, in some ways, but in some ways not.
With a collection of five short stories now on Kindle Direct, I’m enlightened to just how much work short stories require. I definitely found it easier to right a single short story by itself compared to a novel. The structure is similar, but much more concise, the cast is a little smaller, and mine clock in around 4,000 words, give or take a thousand.
Five short stories is another beast entirely. I managed the first couple of short stories in relatively quick succession. But then it began to drag, because each new one required starting completely fresh. Each set of new locales, situations, and characters needed to be thought about, plotted, and brought to life.
With a novel, the world and cast you create get to stick with you for fifty-thousand-plus words. You don’t need to go back and think up new heroes and villains. Even if the world itself is bigger than the world of a short story, it’s already in place (at least to some extent), meaning there’s no agonizing over a new one, with all the nuance every world brings: politics, factions, locations, groups, magic systems, species, nature, religions, and so forth.
I wrote five short stories for my first release, and clocked in around 25,175 words. My novels are between sixty and seventy thousand. While it was easier to finish those short stories, they required quite a bit of frustrating stop-and-start, struggling to find interesting new characters in new worlds.
For my own preferences, I probably won’t do one long span of short-story writing again. One is relatively easy to write (compared to a novel, that is), but a compilation is quite a challenge. In the future, I’ll pepper the novel-writing process with short stories as inspiration hits (and I’m hopeful to have another compilation before the year is done!).
But just like writing my first novel was an incredible learning experience, so too was writing several short stories in a row. It taught me just how challenging they can be, and some of the pros and cons of the medium. Even if they’re not the best stories out there, what I’ve learned is invaluable.
Fantasy Adventures Volume 1: Five Short Stories of Humor, Love, and War is out now for 99¢!