Tag: short stories

Video Saturday: Short Stories versus Novels – Michael Levin

Considering one of the last meetings of the Cat Vacuuming Society Writers Group of Northern Virginia there was a big discussion about our writing preferences: long-form versus short-form, I thought Michael Levin’s quick video about “Short Story vs. Novel – What’s the Difference” might be one answer.

He focuses on definitions and what is included in each rather than writer-preferences and how to work to change what you do to be more inclusive. The description of the video:

What’s the difference between a short story and a novel? My 10th grade English teacher, Miss Harte, provided definitions that make the difference clear. Discover what Miss Harte told her class back in 1974 (we had big hair back then!)…with New York Times best selling author, Shark Tank contestant, leading ghostwriter (www.BusinessGhost.com), and America’s writing teacher Michael Levin, because “Books Are My Babies.”

So what do you think?  Do you agree with Michael? What do you think is the difference and which do you prefer to write? Short stories or novels? Why do you think that is?


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Video Saturday: Baltimore Science Fiction Society’s “State of Short Fiction Roundtable”

Editors Scott H. Andrews (Beneath Ceaseless Skies), Neil Clarke (Clarkesworld), Jonathan Landen (Daily Science Fiction), Bill Campbell (Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism), Norm Sherman (Drabblecast, EscapePod) and writer Erica Satifka (Clarkesworld, Ideomancer) discuss the state of short genre fiction at the #BSFS on Saturday, March 22nd, 8PM. Moderated by Sarah Pinsker.

Great information and a fun night.  The next roundtable discussion will be on Diversity in Science Fiction and Fantasy in August. For more info on BSFS, visit www.bsfs.org and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BaltimoreSciFi and follow us on Twitter @BaltimoreSciFi. I am supremely grateful to Paul Sulsky for video.  This is a great resource!

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When Things Look Really Bad: Overcoming a Major Writing Obstacle

When I read Bill Blankschaen’s post on moving forward when you hit a wall on Mike Hyatt’s blog, it reminded me of when I crashed right into one with my writing.  Maybe you’ve run into a problem that seemed impossible to solve — mine sure did!

Exhausted female soldier sprawls on horizontal ladder obstacle while other soldiers climb over it in background.

(Photo courtesy of the Defense Department)

I’d spent years trying to solve it — subplots did not evolve naturally for me in the story, and I believed this was causing my word count to run short.  I tried everything and came up with workaround after workaround.  But no matter what I did, the problem remained.

It was enough to make me want to give up.  Though I’d always wanted to write novels, I questioned if I should return  to short stories.  If I couldn’t get at the problem, I would never get a novel published.  But I’d gone through basic training as the least likely to enlist in the army, and the drill sergeants had given up on me.  Either I sank or survived, and I survived.  I’d done it because I had to, and here, I had to also.

Letting Go

Have you had to take a leap of faith, not knowing what the result would be?  This was probably the most important thing I had to do.  I stopped searching for a solution and started exploring what would lead me to a solution.  And it was hard, because I had to accept I did not know how to solve it. I already knew, but it’s one thing between knowing and accepting.  Accepting got me to Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel (HTRYN).  I would have never taken it if I hadn’t let go and accepted I didn’t have the answer.


If you’ve done writing for a while, you already know some elements will take their own time.  Most annoyingly, and never fast enough! When I worked through the HTRYN lessons, I wanted to get to solving the problem right now.  Except I still didn’t know what the problem was.  The lessons were frustrating because I kept running into the problem — and it was definitely bigger than I first imagined — but I couldn’t get at what it was.  Then I hit a lesson halfway through, and the problem revealed itself to me.   Then I understand the magnitude of it … yeah, patience would be important.

Sometimes writing isn’t easy, and perseverance is the only choice.

For you: What have you done differently when you’ve run into a wall?  Where have the challenges been?  Where has it been easier than you expected?  Post your comments below.


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Video Saturday – Maeve Binchy’s Advice to Writers

This weekend I wanted to have another woman writer and was surprised at how hard it is to find videos of women authors, particularly those who write speculative fiction.  However, for this week’s Video Saturday we have Maeve Binchy.  Maeve Binchy is an Irish novelist, newspaper columnist and speaker. Many of her novels are set in Ireland, dealing with the tensions between urban and rural life, the contrasts between England and Ireland, and the dramatic changes in Ireland between World War II and the present day. She’s best known for her novel Circle of Friends (1990) which was made into a 1995 Hollywood movie starring Chris O’Donnell and Minnie Driver.  And since the videos are so short, I thought I’d include two.

Maeve Binchy’s Advice to Writers

Maeve Binchy on Short Stories vs. Novels

WWW: That Attractive Quagmire

If you haven’t had a chance to watch the video Day posted yesterday, do it now.  I can wait.

So, Stephen King calls novels a quagmire, says that young writers get in over their heads writing them.  Know what?  Guilty.  I labored under the impression that I was a novelist for years before I started working on short stories.  It’s impossible to say where I would be as a writer if I had approached my nascent writing career differently, but I do feel like a lot of the time that I spent on those early novels, churning instead of honing, is time that could have been better spent better learning the craft.

Because you know what?  With every short story, I learn a new lesson.  A new skill, a new trick, a new aspect of how I write.  Even the bad ones give me ways to grow as a writer, and in part that’s the power of the brevity of the form.  They force you to grow and get better, to improve if you want to get your ideas expressed.  The early, let’s call them “quagmire years,” novels on the other hand provide much less of that.  There’s no market force driving them to be more concise, better with detail, better with character, because a young writer may often feel like he or she has words to burn.

Alright, that’s not me making generalizations.  That’s me actually looking at my course as I worked through my own quagmire years.  Novels were reasons to meander through stories, to not get to some points and overly belabor other points.  And in the process, perhaps my writing may have improved some, but I don’t know how many lessons I really learned as a writer in those early stages.

I’m not saying don’t write novels as a young writer.  Some writers progress at different paces, some are more immediately ready to get into long form.  But know what you’re doing, know what you’re getting into.  The more I stand back and look at novels from the perspective of short story writings, the more flaws I see in my habit of jumping straight into them without a clear battle plan in mind, without an outline, without character sketches.  These are the things holding me back from reentering the novel I was working on, and the things that I know I need to do before starting the next one.

So give short stories a try.  Revel in their length.  Enjoy how much faster they can be created, critiqued, and improved upon.  And beware of the traps and quagmires out there.

Few Words – But 5 Minutes of Video from Stephen King

[vsw id=”FIehHxcEuGM” source=”youtube” width=”425″ height=”344″ autoplay=”no”]


I’ve been struggling of late (okay, most of the time) in my writing.  I’ve completed short stories and sold a few and then found myself struggling towards a novel.  I was thinking, “Okay, you’ve done the appetizer’ it is time to move on to the main course.”  But every time I tried, I failed.  And failed spectacularly, not even getting enough material on the page to constitute a complete short story.  So, it was interesting to hear a few words from Stephen King on this issue.

Points from the 5 minutes of video:

– Short stories are an art form in their own right.

– You can lose your ability/skill to do good short stories.

– A novel can be a quagmire young writers stumble in to before they’re ready.

– Good short stories are an art of miniaturization.


Unfortunately, I cannot find the full video on Borders’ Media site.  But at least this little bit gives me some food for thought…and some hope.

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