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  1. #1
    Aspiring Author agramugl's Avatar
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    Short Stories or Novel First?

    For a year or so, I tried to get one of my novels published. A friend later told me that my idea was a bit of a hard sell--a young adult fairy tale-inspired fantasy epic--so it makes sense why it got rejected many, many times. However, during this time of my life, a fellow writer told me that it was better to publish your short stories first, get noticed and established in the writing community, and then, after that, to try getting a novel published, once you had clout to get an agent's attention.

    My question is this: do you think that's the way to go, or should I still try publishing my novel, even without any short stories to my name?

  2. #2
    Registered User CharlotteAshley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by agramugl View Post
    My question is this: do you think that's the way to go, or should I still try publishing my novel, even without any short stories to my name?
    I think everyone approaches this differently! I did more or less the same thing you did: I wrote a novel (actually, I wrote two whole novels and two half novels, but one of these novels was good enough, I thought, to consider publishing) and went to work redrafting, polishing, and querying. I got a couple requests to see larger samples, but basically it went nowhere.

    Now, I definitely haven't exhausted all possibilities, and I have a lot more work I could do to make the book even better. But what I *have* figured out since then is that I am capable of much better writing. Every story I finish teaches me something. So I have decided to shelve the novel for now, and to just write more. It's a convenient fact that I can finish a short story quickly, and submitting them is sort of fun, so while I'm practicing, I might as well work on publishing them. It's a much smaller job than redrafting a whole novel, and the rewards are more immediate. And if I get a few semi or pro credits to my name, that has got to help my novels.

    I have a couple of specific submissions I'd like to do with my novel, though, near the end of the year. Publishers with open windows. I'm hoping that by the time I turn my attention back to the novel, I will be improved enough to bring something new and better to the draft.

    There is also a third option, which is to start on a 2nd novel. Consider the first one good practice, and apply those lessons to the next project. I might do this too, when I get back to novel-writing. My YA novel was fun, but I have certainly decided I don't want to be a YA writer. I want to write weirder, more experimental stuff for adults. I think this is also part of having done a lot more writing in the interim. I've discovered my strengths, and they definitely do not include appealing to 14-year-olds.

  3. #3
    Greymane Wilson Geiger's Avatar
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    I've seen this question asked to authors, and their answers, while varied, contain the same basic thread. It used to be true, years ago, that you wrote short stories, got noticed, and that led you into the world of novels.

    Now, that can still happen, but it's no longer considered the requirement it was. There are now so many ways to get published that weren't available years ago, that you don't need to get an agent's attention, or go through that one route alone.

    Everyone is different, and there's no surefire way to do it, so you'll have to figure out the way that works for you. I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with shooting for short stories first, but part of the issue that I see, is that if you write short stories, and get good at writing short stories, you'll find that they aren't novels. A good short story writer won't necessarily write good novels, or vice versa. Different animals.

    Not sure if that helps or not. Hopefully at least a little bit.

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    KMTolan kmtolan's Avatar
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    I wouldn't bother writing short stories only to sell a novel. Write a great novel and it will sell somewhere. Yeah, sounds easy, right? If you're being rejected, there's a reason. Grab some readers and find out, fix it, and try again. Project just not marketable then try another one. There's no single road to success.

    Kerry

  5. #5
    Registered User drewavera's Avatar
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    have you considered self publishing? you are on the hook for your own marketing, editing, etc, but you also reap all the awards. another option might be small presses, it will be more of a team, and later on down the road if you go for a bigger publisher, at least then you can say you were published previously. I tried the short story route and got 17 rejection letters to show for it. I self published and have had hundreds of downloads in three months (a bulkof them were free giveaways). My goal was to have readers, not get rich. You will hear the same thing from everyone though, there is no single way to go that is right or wrong, and what works for you will not work for the next guy. Best of luck getting your stuff out there.

  6. #6
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    1. Novels sell better than short stories.
    2. Short stories, if you can sell to a pro market, can put your name and a sample of your writing in front of tens or hundreds of thousands of readers in your genre, some of whom will look for your novels. It may also be beneficial if you're submitting to publishers.
    3. Novels and short stories are different forms, so skills learned on one may not transfer directly to the other.

    My approach with short stories is to send them out to pro markets if any seem suitable, and then self-publish if they're rejected. I mostly write them as a break from novels, though.

  7. #7
    It could be worse. ~tmso Moderator N. E. White's Avatar
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    As everyone said, this writing process is different for everyone.

    While I agree that short story skills are different from novel skills, there is a lot to learn from writing and honing your short stories BEFORE writing a novel.

    I wrote a two full novels. Each one was terrible. My writing truly sucked.

    This year, I've been working on short stories and I've noticed a marked improvement in my writing. Short stories force me to actually "craft" a story. With a novel, I get lost and overwhelmed in the revision and editing process, and never get past that part. Because I can break up a 10k short story into manageable chunks, I'm beginning to learn how to piece together a story.

    With that said, if you feel your novel is in its best form, try some of the smaller presses?

  8. #8
    Book of the Black Earth
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    OP, there is no right or wrong path. There was a time when writers made their bones with short fiction, but it's not as "essential" as it was once thought to be.

    That doesn't mean writing shorts is a waste of time. You can learn a lot in the shorter forms. Just don't expect book publishers to jump to attention when they see your list of short-story credits unless you're getting published in major mags on a regular basis. And even then, your novel still has to sell itself.

  9. #9
    Registered User Sam James's Avatar
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    I'm writing only short stories now, but simply because I am unable to surmount the task of writing a novel with my current skill set. My plan is to work my way up. I'm writing short stories and I have a fully planned novella and I am to get those done before I attempt my novel again.

    Honestly, even the novella is daunting, despite having planned it down to 1000 word blocks, progress is slow. I am considering first writing some longer short stories and then a novelette and see where that takes me.

    At the end of the day, once I have a novel completed, I might just release everything else I have written for free on a personal website to help promote the novel (as it's all set in the same world). We'll see. I have seen a lot of success with this model in the Electronic Music Scene, where artists have released free material and helped build up a strong following. (For example; Skrillex). The publishing market is obviously a different beast altogether, but I'm all for embracing new ways to try things.

  10. #10
    Aspiring Author agramugl's Avatar
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    Maybe I ought to explain a few things about my writing history. The first being is that I've actually written about thirteen or so novel length works since I was fourteen, but, for obvious reasons, anything I wrote before eighteen--roughly less than half--are fairly crappy. Like, they're the kind of thing you'd expect a fourteen year old to write. Every work, for me, was a learning experience, and one I value.

    Now, I feel, in retrospect, do you think I ought to pursue a smaller press first?

    Also, where would I be able to get serious feedback on a novel length work? I've had some of my friends read the novels, and they gave it positive feedback, but obviously none of them are experienced writers who are super critical. So...where should I look?

  11. #11
    I write stuff J.D. Carelli's Avatar
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    You can submit your work here

    To answer the original question, write what you like. I don't usually go in for short stories, so I don't write them. I like to read and write novels, so that's what I do. For me, it's that simple.

  12. #12
    KMTolan kmtolan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by agramugl View Post
    Maybe I ought to explain a few things about my writing history. The first being is that I've actually written about thirteen or so novel length works since I was fourteen, but, for obvious reasons, anything I wrote before eighteen--roughly less than half--are fairly crappy. Like, they're the kind of thing you'd expect a fourteen year old to write. Every work, for me, was a learning experience, and one I value.

    Now, I feel, in retrospect, do you think I ought to pursue a smaller press first?
    Absolutely, but have folks take a strong look at your work first. Rejection rate at the small press I'm published with is up around 98% - most of it because the submitters haven't mastered the mechanics of writing. Grammar, story construction, characters...you really have to nail this stuff.

    Also, where would I be able to get serious feedback on a novel length work? I've had some of my friends read the novels, and they gave it positive feedback, but obviously none of them are experienced writers who are super critical. So...where should I look?
    You can put an excerpt out on the stories forum here and have us take a gander at it for a basic litmus test. You can search Yahoo Groups for reading groups. You can contact a local Creative Writing teacher at your nearest college and ask about reading groups. You can contact your library and see if there might be a group there. You can Google around and get with one of the many review groups online.

    Kerry

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by agramugl View Post
    Maybe I ought to explain a few things about my writing history. The first being is that I've actually written about thirteen or so novel length works since I was fourteen, but, for obvious reasons, anything I wrote before eighteen--roughly less than half--are fairly crappy. Like, they're the kind of thing you'd expect a fourteen year old to write.
    Don't knock it. When I emigrated I found an old school notebook from when I was nine or ten, and some of the stories I wrote in there were quite entertaining; a disaster in spelling and grammar, but the actual plot wasn't bad. I've transcribed the best one into the laptop and just have to get around to rewriting it.

    I really wish I still had the space opera epic I wrote at school when I was seven or eight; I'd love to know how good or bad that really was.

  14. #14
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by agramugl View Post
    For a year or so, I tried to get one of my novels published. A friend later told me that my idea was a bit of a hard sell--a young adult fairy tale-inspired fantasy epic--so it makes sense why it got rejected many, many times. However, during this time of my life, a fellow writer told me that it was better to publish your short stories first, get noticed and established in the writing community, and then, after that, to try getting a novel published, once you had clout to get an agent's attention.

    My question is this: do you think that's the way to go, or should I still try publishing my novel, even without any short stories to my name?
    It used to be that there was the old system of doing an apprenticeship of sorts in short stories in magazines, which let the overall community get to know you, since they kept tabs, and often led to book deals. But that was a long time ago, when magazines were a much bigger part of the market, and it was more of a SF thing than a fantasy thing. Fantasy authors have tended to go straight into novels and though I'm sure book editors do keep loose tabs on the magazine offerings, it's not like it was only twenty years ago. Short story publications certainly don't hurt anything and can get some people aware of you especially if you win awards for them, but if you don't want to do short stories, then it may be very hard to sell them.

    What really confuses me, however, is the idea that your YA novel didn't sell because it is a fairy-tale inspired fantasy epic. Fairy tale inspired fantasy stories have been a staple of both adult and YA fantasy for decades. There's:

    Juliett Marillier's Wildwood Dancing and Cybele's Secret
    Alex Flinn's Beastly, A Kiss in Time and Cloaked
    Gail Carson Levine's work, including Ella Enchanted
    Malinda Lo's Ash
    Shannon Hale's The Goose Girl (Books of Bayern series)
    Mette Ivie Harrison's Hound Saga series
    Robin McKinley's Beauty
    Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels
    Jackson Pearce's As You Wish
    Jessica Day George's Princess of the Midnight Ball (Princess series), and Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow
    Amanda Marrone's Devoured
    Donna Jo Napoli's Beast
    Sara Beth Durst's Ice
    Edith Pattou's East
    Frank Beddor's The Looking Glass Wars

    Here's a list with over 900 books of fairy tale based stories, both adult and YA: http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/9...page=2#2662169

    So, no, a fairy tale inspired fantasy epic YA novel is not a hard sell. But there are a lot of factors that go into rejections. If you got any feedback from anyone who turned you down, that might help you. Or maybe you weren't going to the best publishers for it, etc. If the novel is really what you want to sell, then continuing to market it and maybe reworking it to improve it may be the best place to concentrate your energies. Self-publishing is also an option.

  15. #15
    We Read for Light Window Bar's Avatar
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    Novel vs. Short Stories? Why Not Both?

    If you choose to go the self-published route (especially e-books), the entire equation changes. Rather than Which should I put out there?, it becomes How do I put as much out there as possible? (as long as it's good).

    The selling of ANYTHING requires being noticed. The selling of e-books requires being noticed again and again and again. Amazon and Barnes & Noble both allow you to publish short stories as e-books, and both allow your e-book to contain references and sales leads to your novel. Smashwords allows you to put your stories up on eight or ten different platforms (such as Apple and Sony), so your short stories act as a lens back to your book. Do you write poetry? Essays? Put them out there for free. The internet breeds and multiplies giveaways like a compost heap multiplies beetles. When you can type your author name into a search engine and find 100,000 (that's the low end) or more references to yourself and your writing, people will begin to find you. If they like your free work, one out of a hundred of them will buy your commercial work.

    Some will like it, some will hate it. But it's got to be good enough that some will love it.

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