Jump to content

Ask an Author 2.0 #25

Sign in to follow this  
Carlos Hazday


Welcome to the final installment of Ask an Author.

Yep, you read correctly. I’m out of questions, so unless I get a few new ones, there will not be a December blog entry. In the meantime, a member sent in a query for several authors.


"Which is harder to write and why... short stories (so much has to be crammed into so little space) or a chapter story (so much research to get it right, like CJ and his environs or Donny and Louis in Mikiesboy's Changes & Changes Again?)


@Carlos Hazday

Unless it’s a throw-away flash piece, writing a short story’s harder than some chapters in a multi-installment story. Part of it, as you mention, is the need to cram so much into so few words. Just because it is short does not mean it should be incomplete.  Leaving certain blanks to be filled in by readers’ imagination, does not absolve authors from the need to provide a beginning, a middle, and an end. Even when creating a slice-of-life tale, the need for a structure remains. If not, a shopping list could be considered a short story. Now, there’s an idea for a prompt. Anyone interested in writing a flash piece with ‘The Shopping List’ as the title?


A chaptered novel or novella is definitely more difficult than a short story; mostly because of the time required to research, write, and edit. You ask us to compare an individual chapter within such a tale to a short and in many cases those can be easy. Every long tale has a rhythm; some chapters are full of action while others not so much. Those slower chapters can be easier to create. Giving readers a break from non-stop action allows us to write atmospheric chapters. A quick glance at past events, location descriptions, or small romantic interludes can round out the story and provide the breathing space needed before plunging back into the maelstrom. 



Which is harder to write and why?  Wow, okay, let’s see.

They are not really comparable; they are two different things altogether.

It’s a skilled author who can write a good short story and that’s not just my opinion.

Anyone who wants to or thinks they can write, should start with short stories (yes, Virginia, there are always exceptions to any rule). They help you learn plotting; help you find your voice and style. They will help you develop the skill you need so you can write that novel you want to write.

Okay, this isn’t answering the set question.

Short stories normally have one main character and plot, while novels have more and may have a number of subplots.

Short stories are not shrunken novels yet they must have a beginning, middle/climax and end/twist. To me a short story should be around 7,500 words or it’s drifting into novella territory.

That’s a chapter in some novels.

Novels, though, should not be long rambling things that go on and on just to raise the word count. Unnecessary words, subplots, and the continued introduction of new characters, show up very quickly. They muddle things. Long descriptions, and character’s mental diarrhea (in other words, a lot of Telling) make your novel a long trip to Dullsville.

But novels let you show your world to the reader, up close and personal.

So, which is harder? The answer is both, each have their own personality, and needs. Each must be written differently, if they are to work.



@AC Benus

Right now I’m tackling a new genre of book, and the research needed to do an historical murder mystery is driving me insane! Well, okay, it’s not that bad, but it takes a lot of time. However, is an honest to goodness Short Story any easier than a novel?

The two are not scalable. A novel can’t be boiled down without harm, and a Short Story cannot be “padded out” to 20 chapters without losing its soul. Both require individual types of inspirations.

Short Story inspirations are probably rarer, which makes GA’s writing prompts such a valuable asset. Keeping in mind that real Short Stories should have twists at or near the end, one can look over the posted prompts and see if anything sparks. Once the idea comes, a Short Story can be organized and written in a few days. For me, it’s all about the drive to get it out. There is almost a kinetic buildup, and the story itself should flow easily if you are ready to write it.

With novels, first and foremost, novelistic elements should be present. I guess these are unexpected turn of events as well, but very large-scale ones. Think of Oliver Twist. The boy runs away to London, and through some accidents, is eventually placed in very home of his dead mother, with his grandfather and aunt. Fate has stepped in, and we as readers – just like Twist himself – know nothing about this till the very end. Novels can do these things very well, where in Short Stories, they seem artificial. The why of it is, novels offer more room to explore and develop people, situations and relationships. But they take more time to plan and write.

So, it is easier to get started on a novel, but easier to finish a Short Story. That is my backwards conclusion  




Well, there's something to make me think.

In my case, a 'short story' can be anything from micro-fiction (under 50 words) through to a tale that stands on its own but has in excess of 10,000 words. As you might expect, both extremes have their separate challenges as well as some similarities.

I regularly post flash fiction pieces on my external blog, written to one or more prompts, which have to be 750 words or under. The prompts are posted on a Saturday; the entries have to be in by the following Wednesday. Finding an idea that fits exactly into the word limit is key. There's enough space to tell a complete story with all the components you'd expect, but it must be focussed, and pared back to the essentials. I have a chequered history in this respect. One of the worst comments you can receive is 'This is a great start'. It's difficult to let go of an idea when it can't be made to fit, no matter how many words I excise. Writing such a piece is an excellent discipline in being concise, showing, not telling, yet coming up with something that grabs a reader's attention.

At the other end of the scale, finding a story to fit is still key. Yes, the canvas is larger, allowing more detail, conversation, and depth. However it must leave the reader satisfied that the story is complete: no hanging threads, no redundant characters. It has to gather momentum throughout, with little room for diversions. Questions might still remain – that's OK. Sometimes it's good to leave people wondering about what happens after the conclusion.

I have much more experience in stand-alone shorts than ongoing stories. That said, my two chaptered stories are where I feel my learning is more apparent. One thing I wrote early on in my writing career was the first chapter of Never Too Late. Here I am, a little over two and a half years later, preparing to close the second volume. That story in particular documents what I've learnt.

Quite apart from my increasing technical knowledge, this is where I've discovered story and character arcs. And becoming so wrapped up in my principal characters, they talk to me; direct the story almost. That depth of characterisation means I have to spend much more time discovering just who they are. You can't get away with the outline sketch that serves for a flash piece.

The locales are another matter. I started out in Eric's story not naming anywhere; in a way the intimacy of the first few chapters doesn't make this a problem. Gradually it became more of an issue; this combined with my increasing confidence meant that when the second volume began posting, most places are named except for his home town. Yes, they're real places and what I describe bears some resemblance to reality.

To come back to your original question of which is more difficult – my answer would be neither. Written properly, both long and short stories should challenge authors. I know they do me.



@Geron Kees

I have to say that I don't see much difference between short stories and longer ones, other than the time involved in creating them. I usually write long stories, anyway.

I have written some stories that were planned as chaptered tales from the get-go. I don't think there is more planning for a long tale than then a short one. I research subjects as I need to while moving along, so while it does require more research for something longer, there is no more planning involved, because I start with an idea and simply create the balance of the story as I move along. I know some writers plot out the whole tale before they start, but I don't do that.

So I'll have to say that neither format is more difficult, and that one just takes longer than the other. If anything, very short pieces are hard for me, because I generally wind up with more ideas I want to add, and have to stop myself before it gets out of hand.



That’s it for now. I hope someone hears my cry for help, and we get to visit again next month.


  • Like 15
  • Love 5
  • I Read It 3
Sign in to follow this  


Recommended Comments

This was a cool question and the responses were great.

I hope more questions come in. I really enjoy this feature and appreciate all the work @Carlos Hazdaydoes to present it each month.

  • Like 2

Share this comment

Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Similar Content

    • By AC Benus
      Hello, All!
      Is that a hint of fall in the air...? Maybe for me it is I've been busy working on a wicked little tale to darken the spirits of this upcoming Halloween. Set in San Francisco, we meet a banker and his irascibly fey rescuer with a stammer...a certain demon-in-training named Terrance. ...Starting to sound familiar...? 
      Without further ado, I offer for your consideration:
      It’s a Dreadful Life – a Halloween Classic
      **mild warning for devilish language**
      [...After his rescue from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, the human and Oni warm up in the abandoned Toll Booth Operators' break room...]
      “You sound pretty well informed.”
      “In Demon School we devote an entire semester to studying avaricious human plots.” The hellion’s Pollyanna-fey cum-wholesome wickedness emerges to the fore with a wink. “We learn all the classic examples: GM/Firestone buying up every light-rail system in North America to scrap ‘em for buses; the bill of goods saying Artificial Intelligence will help people, ha! Oh, oh, the 2016 Elections! – Heavens! All the big cons.”
      The banker nods his head. “Yep, but you be careful and remember to act naïve while you’re tooling around here on Earth.”
      “Oh, yes,” the evildoer says in total innocence. “We’re warned by our professors not to venture up here on our own; our own. You can never tell what’s on a man’s mind, and you’re likely to be out-deviled at any moment.”
      As Gregory bundles up tighter, then sips and starts to feel more alive again, he takes a good gander at his rescuer.
      Terrance’s age is indeterminate. With its store of wrinkled frown lines, a solidly middle-aged face expresses a long, experienced life already lived.
      Now that the pair sit inside, the banker can see the novice demon’s curly black hair steps away from two bony plates on his skull. They’re in line with Terrance’s temples, and remind Gregory of the protrusions from which deer antlers grow.
      The remainder of the Oni’s appearance is less interesting. Besides his flame-red skin and yellow cat eyes tricked out with mascara, his tubby beer gut is ill disguised beneath his 70’s era leisure suit. The brown triple-knit polyester – a truly hellish fabric – looks hella uncomfortable and clashes style-wise with the black satin cape he wears with standing velvet collar in back of his head.
      “So, what’s being a demon-in-training all involve?”
      “Well, ya see; ya see, we have to pass our final exams and then go out into the world and spread a little wickedness around. You know, make sure people feel sufficiently hopeless. And then, like me, to graduate to a fulltime, tenured demon position, we’re assigned a testcase for our final thesis.”
      “So I’m your testcase.”
      “Meaning, I help you see things clearly again, and I’ll get my horns.”
      “Yes! Teacher says every time a banker shouts ‘Get a job!’ at a homeless person, a demon gets his horns.”
      “That’s all very well and good,” Gregory says, totally self-absorbed, “but in case you haven’t noticed, I want to die.”
      After a half minute of despondently looking down in his lap, Gregory sees a fiendish hand settle atop his own.
      “And I’m here to help,” Terrance says as soft as a malicious notion come to a person on the crapper.
      “How can you help, demon?”
      “By raising your chin. By cheering you up, by making you see there’s still so much bad left to do in the world.”
      “You think?”
      “Yes. And don’t worry about Hell. It’ll always be there, waiting for you. Why, just the other day, Bub himself was saying ‘If there’s one man I need more than any other up there on Earth, it’s Gregory Bailiff. He's an awesome dude!”
      “Beelzebub said that, about me?”
      “Yep. He’s a big fan of your work.”
      “Look, thanks for the evil pep talk, but I’m just a banker. Just a humble…money changer.”
      Suddenly Terrance sounds like Mr. Paul Lynde. “Oh, you’re so much more than that.”
      “I still don’t know—”
      “Don’t know if you should trade one hell for the other?”
      “Yes, if—”
      “Look, right now your P.E.I., Personal Evil Index, is low. You’re being exhausted by all these sham do-gooders, raising a stink about a few puny billion dollars; billion dollars. But if you think about it, with your naturally crooked nature, combined with your amazing skills at lying, manipulating, deception – being a banker! – you’ll go into Leavenworth and wind up running the joint in three months.”
      “Ya think?”
      Terrance sits back confidently, hands locking behind his head. “I know it. You’re one wicked son of a bitch.”
      Gregory demurs. “Ah, you’re just saying that.”
      “No! You are. So I propose we take a look at three special Halloweens: one past, one present and one future. Then you can make your final decision.”
      “Um – Isn’t that from a different holiday movie—”
      “Shush”—glances over his shoulder—“they’ll never notice the difference. Plus, they're not paying that much attention anyway.”
      The banker thinks the proposition over but still hems. “I don’t know.”
      Terrance pops to his feet. “Oh, come on, Greggy Boy – help an Oni out. You decide if you want to live or die, and maybe I’ll be promoted to fulltime demon in the process; the process.”
      “Well, what do I have to lose?”
      “That’s the evil spirit!” Terrance runs and gathers Gregory’s clothes as the man stands to dress.
      Once they’re all set, Terrance chirps, “Excellent. Now, grab the hem of my cape and we’ll be off.”
      Gregory does so, thinking they will be whooshed up into the air. Instead, Terrance hoofs it for the door.
      “Aren’t we – you know – gonna fly?”
      “Heavens, no! That’s Fallen Angel College, and it takes several millennia to be that bad.”
      “But if we’re walking, why do I have to hold your cape?”
      “Atmospherics, and just for chuckles. Now, shall we?”
      “Lead the way.”
      Both go back out into the gray blanket of air and start heading for the Marina District. What Gregory can’t know, is they are also stepping back in time.              
    • By Brayon
      Discussion thread for:
    • By Cia
      How fast the year has already seemed to go! Hopefully you found the time to enjoy Mikiesboy's story, The Pledge. Or, if you've read it already, maybe you tried one of his newer stories like "After the Past". Or, if you're a fan of his work, you've already read his work... well this is your chance to share that love with fellow readers who might be new to his work. I've asked a few questions to kick things off, but don't be shy asking Mikiesboy what you want to know too!

      Have you ever gone out in public, realized your shirt is on backwards, and just don’t care?
      No. I’d never do that and if I did I’d be mortified! I’m paranoid and terrified of making a mistake. I am a perfectionist, with a capital P. Though obviously I make mistakes all the time…
      What’s something personal about you people might be surprised to know?
      Most people know I love to cook, some know I went to cooking school, but my fav recipe is one of my Grandmother’s. It’s Sheppard’s Pie, simple, not fried and my fav comfort food. It actually won a local Sheppard’s Pie taste test!
      What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
      If I’m not writing, I can be found reading, cooking/baking, or snuggled up with my giant of a husband watching British TV shows! There’s a full-time job in there somewhere, too!
      What’s the best part of being an author?
      Oh, gosh I think listening to people’s opinions, especially about how a poem made them feel. It can be so different from what I felt when I wrote it. There’s no right or wrong, and that fascinates me. The other thing is learning, trying new things, stepping out of that comfort zone to write something new.
      Do you prefer to write one project at a time or do you bounce from story to story as inspiration strikes?
      I sort of bounce around until I feel ready to finish something. Sometimes there are things I just don’t want to write. For example, the abuse scenes in Out of His Mind. It took me some time to get that finished. Once I’d done it, I put all else aside and finished Tait’s story. It was time.
      Do you have any special tricks when you write to get you in the right frame of mind to jump into different time periods?
      Tricks? No. I try to read a lot about things I’ve not experienced myself. I watch shows about them if I can and I just try to imagine myself there. People are people no matter where they are, I think. They are affected by the things around them, but they don’t really change.
      The Pledge has both a medieval aspect and a paranormal one. Why did you decide to mix the themes?
      Oh, people have challenged me to write about zombies and vamps. So I did in me, Zombie and now vampires in The Pledge. But I didn’t want the same old thing.
      With The Pledge, I was interested in exploring in things I’d read in Anne Rice’s novels, the Vampire Chronicles series and in my research. Anne Rice talked about the origin of vampires, so I wanted mine to be old, to live through centuries. I wondered how they’d respond to changes that happened through the centuries they’d experience. I wanted to explore if they’d remain human in some ways, or if that old adage, power corrupts absolutely, would apply.
      So to make them old, I looked back to Elmet, which was a real place in the north of England, where West Yorkshire is now, between the 5th and 7th centuries. Elmet was just a framework; I’m sure it was nothing like I’ve written it.
      Can you sum up this story in one sentence?
      One? You don’t know me too well, LOL! The Pledge is a story of power, love and life immortal through the ages. There, how’s that?
      You tend to bounce around time periods, such as your recent story of After the Past which went in a completely different direction. Do you have a preferred time period to write?
      My last couple of stories have been bouncy for sure. I prefer to write in modern times, it’s a bit easier to do I think. There is often less research required, but I’d look at other time periods again if I’m inspired. It’s fun to delve into the past or to try and make the future realistic.
      Do you have any recent, current, or upcoming stories you think fans should read? Why would you recommend them?
      I think I’d recommend Levko. It’s pulled from my own experiences when I was a rent boy. I think it worked well and seemed to be well received. After The Past as well, I’m rather proud of that one. It’s my longest story and I think the effort I put in and the effort of my editor, AC Benus, really shows in the quality.
      I have two stories I’m actively writing, the first with the working title of Magic Beans should be fun and while modern, it’s not about humans.
      The other I’m hoping will work out into a longer novel. It’s called Changes and it’s about Don, a very active guy, who is married to Louis and how their lives change after a terrible accident, and how they go forward together. I’m really exploring their relationship, Louis’ feelings and fears, as well as their relationships with their families.
    • By Renee Stevens
      Have you thought about writing your first story, but it seems a little daunting? Don't worry, every new author has been there at one point or another. Thankfully, you're part of a great community that has plenty of authors willing to share their knowledge, and/or what they wished they'd known when they first started. If you're thinking that you've heard that before, it's because you have, but that's the best intro to this feature. Back in December we first introduced the "New Author Advice" feature and it seemed to be well received. So let's take a look at what advice our site authors have this time.


      Building Readership & Criticism


      Ok... building readership... read others work, comment/review, be active in forums, say hello to people be friendly. That's what I did. Works from my experience. It can't be a one way street. And reply to people who comment. They took the time to read your work, you should do the same in return.
      Criticism? Well that can be hard to take, depending on how it's written and the kind of person you are. If you're unsure, ask the person who commented what they mean. I've not experienced any sort of mean-spirited criticism on GA. Most people are pretty helpful and thoughtful. At least the ones I've met.
      You can also use the Your Status thing to advertise .. but I don't personally.



      Carlos Hazday

      Encourage readers to give you honest feedback. Reviews pointing out what they liked are great, but the ones where they tell you what they didn't like are even better in my opinion.
      If you want to make your stories the best they can be, knowing what didn't work for readers is a priority. If you react badly to criticism, you may miss out on great advice, your writing may suffer, and in the end you could end up losing readers when your style stagnates.


      Before You Start


      First, read a lot. Read a lot of different authors, different genres and different styles. Read with an eye towards not just the plot but, the craft in which the story is developed. You will see that some authors do a great job in this respect while others- not so much.
      Second- Start with short stories. They can teach you a great deal. Unlike a novel, you can't wander around for a 40,000 words to make a point. Short stories require a certain discipline to do them well. You have to balance things very carefully with an economy of words while providing characterization and description while advancing a plot. Don't expect to master this over a few weekends. It's more art than science. In fact it's a lot like golf. When you are in the zone, you can do great things. If not, you bogey every hole.
      Finally- before you embark on a novel, learn how to plan it out. We all make the mistake of sitting down at a blank page on the computer, write a great beginning and then hit a wall. There are numerous GREAT but INCOMPLETE novels on the web. Unfortunately several of them are my own. Know where you are going because, if you don't, your chances of getting there are slim.

      If you're a current or experienced author and have some advice for newbie authors, send me a PM with your advice and be featured in a future "New Author Advice" feature.
      If you're a new author, or even an existing author, what questions would you ask your fellow authors? PM me your questions regarding writing and if there is enough interest, we'll start a new feature where I post your questions for the various site authors to give their opinion. You can choose to remain anonymous if you'd like.
  • Create New...

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..