They Said It Best: Short Stories to Series and Everything In Between

ShortstoryOur last post touched on various authors’ writing processes, with the lesson being, there’s no right way to write. So now that we’ve taken a look at where ideas come from and processes for getting those ideas down, let’s talk about what you can actually write with your ideas. There’s a wide variety of ways to tell your story, and since writing is a creative art form, there’s even more flexibility in how you can. You can portray a beautiful story through a rhyming verse of poetry or through a grander scope like a series. More often than not, writing will fit into categories of short story, novella, stand alone novel, and series.

To start us off, I love this brief post from author Ava Jae in which she discusses how to decide what form fits your idea best:

“In short, the main difference to me between a short story and novel idea lies in the scope of the idea. If you think you can fit it in fifteen pages, then it’s probably not worth dragging out into three hundred; but on the other hand if you think it might be difficult to condense into a shorter story without losing anything, you might want to consider writing a novel (or at least a novella) instead.”

So once you determine your scope, you can decide what size of a story you’d like to develop.

Over the past year or so, I’ve really enjoyed developing my short story skills. I’m typically a short-winded writer, so short stories are something I really enjoy. It’s easier to reach a minimum word count (usually 2,500 to 10k words), but also requires different storytelling skills than you’d see in a novella or longer work. In The Anatomy of a Successful Short Story, REUTS Publications Editorial Director Kisa Whipkey outlines key factors for making a short story work. Specifically, “There are three things a successful short story must have: brevity, focus, and telling. Learn how to control these three elements and your short fiction will stand out in a pile like little beacons.”

Next, as the world around us becomes increasingly busy, readers’ attention spans are waning. The shorter novel, or novella, has gained a lot of popularity over the past few years. With novellas topping out around 40k words, it’s easy to sit down and read an entire story in the space of just a few hours. But as with short stories, novellas require a honed scope and focused plot to keep it from blossoming into a full-length novel. If you think your idea is suited for a novella, check out these 10 Tips for Writing a Novella.

If you feel like your idea won’t fully develop in the limited pages of a novella, then roll up your sleeves and flesh out that storyline. Depending on the age group you’re writing for, full length novels can begin around 45k and head upwards of 100k! But don’t get carried away. Just because you have more word count to work with, doesn’t mean you can aimlessly craft your way from start to finish. Novels must have purpose, focus and as many elements as a carefully crafted spider web. There are many ways to plan a novel, but I love Nathan Bransford’s basic suggestions on How to Write a Novel.

Now you’ve completed your novel, perhaps as a stand alone story, or maybe you still have a story that needs to be told. With the success of series in the writing arena, more and more authors are continuing character journeys with more than one book. There is a lot of information on what to do and what not to do, if you even do it at all. I’m in the process of writing the sequel to my debut novel LINK, and I’ve learned quite a few things about writing series. I’m halfway through the second book, LOST, and have finally been inspired with how I’m going to end book three, LIGHT. One of the things I’m happiest about is that I’ve had time to go back and tweak book one as I fill in the details and plot lines of books two and three. So my biggest suggestion is: take your time. Make sure nothing falls through the cracks. And while you’re at it, check out this list of 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Fiction Series.

No matter what you write, remember, there’s no right way to do it. A single idea could fit into any of these categories. I’ve known authors who have written fantastic short stories and then developed that small idea into a full length novel. The key is to take your idea and make it into what you want it to be. Determine your scope, pick your story type, then run with it! Happy Writing!

Share your experience with short stories, novellas, novels and series in the comments below, and tune in February 25th as the series continues with “Writing Methods and Tools.”

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