Writing short stories vs novels

by - April 29, 2020

short stories vs novels

Should I write short stories or novels? The question I like discussing the most. Although I have a strong opinion on this one, I'll give my absolute best to be as objective as possible and share the pros and cons of each side. I'll break this subject down in several major segments.

How choosing one path will affect your strategy?

First, let's start with logistics. Writing a novel takes at least ten times longer than writing a short story. This means that by the time you finish your first novel, you'll have ten stories already published and making you money, with the potential of becoming really popular and helping you take off as an author. It doesn't sound too drastic, but let's look into the future and compare your five novels with fifty short stories. Again, this ratio depends on the length of both novels on the one hand and short stories on another. Realistically though, I would argue that it's more likely you'll write closer to twenty short stories in the same time frame as you would one novel. This is my personal opinion, based on my own experience, so feel free to disagree with me and share your own experience. There is a shift in mentality when you keep publishing very frequently. You don't dwell over every single word repeatedly. On the other hand, when writing a novel, you know that you've just spent six months to a year writing one manuscript, and all you have is one single shot. If people hate it, too bad, that's the only book you have to offer at that moment. Sure, you can spend another six months to a year writing another novel, but even then, there is no guarantee that each one of those books will be popular enough to make you money.

It takes me about six months to write a novel. That would be two novels per year with two chances of making it on the platform. When it comes to short stories, I am a firm advocate of the DWS method, which I personally follow. That means that I can write fifty short stories in a year. Twenty-five short stories or one novel? I choose the former. Some of those stories are a success, some are pretty invisible. But the chances work in my favor when I create fifty different opportunities for my career to take off.

When it comes to business strategies, it's apples and oranges. I have a detailed launching schedule for publishing a novel that takes me roughly one year to accomplish. The actual writing of the book is included in the schedule, but as you can see, the launching strategy is brutal. Some steps do overlap quite a bit, and I try my best to start writing the next novel pretty much after I'm done writing the first one, but it gets so exhausting working on two projects at the same time, especially when there are many steps I have to cover as I go. One of these days, I'll share my ultimate launching schedule with you so you can see what I'm talking about.

Everything I said so far makes me sound like it's a no brainer. But let me share a different perspective. So much effort goes into writing a novel. I take it so seriously as if my life depends on it, which later gives me a better product. Compared to my short stories, books are always more polished, professional, and a better representation of me as a writer. If you're all about the best quality and you don't expect to make a living writing, I would always suggest writing novels. They will most likely be of better quality. If you want this to be your career, I would recommend the quantity strategy that will be your jumping board. Again, feel free to disagree with me.

And before you call me a sellout for even considering this business plan, let me share my views on it. This is a business like any other. If it was a hobby, I wouldn't care about any of this. But people work for money. Somehow, when it comes to writing, people have ridiculous expectations. Anything shorter than genius is mediocre and, therefore, not acceptable. As if most people alive, no matter the profession, aren't mediocre at their job. And I don't mean this as an insult. We should strive for greatness, but let's not have unrealistic expectations from one industry. People cannot afford to spend a year writing full time with no income just so they can publish one novel. Expecting them to do that for the sake of art is unfair because we need money to survive in this world.

I tried to be objective here, but even though I started making the point in favor of novels, I still ended up defending the short story strategy. I guess my bias is showing. Moving on to the short stories strategy, that is so much easier and straightforward. Write - publish - repeat. That's it. The sheer volume of the titles will do the marketing for you. The more stories you have, the more people will find them on their own. They read one story, and if they like it, they will most likely look for your other stories. You'll still have to spend time on social media talking about your books, but it's nothing compared to the business strategy that comes with launching a novel.

This is just an observation with no greater detail to it. I will discuss these strategies more thoroughly in the future, showing you my step-by-step plan for both novels and short stories.

Moving on.

How choosing one path will affect your expenses?

It depends. If you plan on writing several short stories, you could invest money in professional covers, expensive editing, ads, etc. If you want to go crazy and write 50 stories, it wouldn't be financially sustainable. You'll have to work around these issues and learn how to do things yourself. Obviously, covers you make yourself won't be as good, not even close. But who can spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars each week for covers alone? No one, that's who. When writing a novel, I personally wouldn't dare to design my own covers or using Grammarly instead of paying an actual editor. It would be a suicide mission. Think about it, people are more forgiving when it comes to short stories. They won't spend days reading and investing their time in your writing. Also, short stories are cheaper than novels, which means they won't invest as much money either. Therefore they're more likely to be less judgemental. This won't always be the case, obviously. Some people will destroy you with their reviews, even if you give them your book/short story for free. The reality is, humans, enjoy criticizing others and their work. I know, it sucks. You'll grow a thick skin.

So this one is neither here nor there. Do you want to write fewer short stories and invest in them, or do you want to go for volume and do things yourself? If you choose the first option, it will cost you more than it would if you were to write a novel. If you choose the second one, it will save you a bunch of money. Let me tell you the main reason why I would choose the latter. Ads. Marketing is ready expensive if you actually want to see some real results, and it's not a one-time thing. You'll be pouring money regularly, and if you're a beginner, you won't have enough income from your previous books to support those expenses. You know what they say, the best marketing for your book is writing another book. And it's the truth. The more books you have, the more organic readers you'll get without having to spend money on ads. We'll talk more about that some other time.

Which one is better for beginners, and why?

I'll be really blunt here - short stories. I'll assume you are a regular person who doesn't have an unlimited budget. Some of you may not have money to invest at all. I know, I was one of those people. And although I personally wouldn't say that you don't need any money at all to have a fair chance of succeeding,  I would say that you don't need a lot of it. A few hundred dollars will be enough for you to start. As you start making money, you'll invest some of it in certain things that will make your life easier.

Let's forget about the budget for a second. When you first start publishing, you are a no one, an invisible entity on those virtual shelves. If you want to become slightly visible, you'll have to work for it from the grounds up. Having multiple titles helps. You're building your presence and your name. Use pen names if you want, I know I always will, but you get the point. If I have a pen name with more than twenty titles, I am visible. Visibility leads to sales, and after that, your writing skills will take the weel. You have the control in terms of visibility, but you have no control over reviews. Everyone thinks their writing is good, that's why they are publishing it for others to see it. But not everyone is right. Any of us could be that delusional person, there's no way of knowing before you actually publish your work. But chances are if you believe you can do it, something gave you that confidence for a reason. Not many people are completely delusional and oblivious to their abilities. So believe in yourself! You will start on shaky grounds and make mistakes, but you'll improve as you go. That brings me to another reason why I love short stories. You'll gain so much feedback and have countless opportunities to learn from your mistakes. And that's the luxury you won't get if you publish once or twice a year.

In the end, you can always start with short stories and work your way up to writing novels.

Although it's pretty clear by now that I am a fan of short stories, especially for beginners, I'll share my thoughts on some cones that come with it. First of all, it so much easier to think of one story compared to fifty different ones. I can't stress this enough. My brain hurts every time I have to think of yet another story to write, every single week. It's exhausting. Another thing I find excruciating is making my own covers. I am not a designer, and I have zero patience for such tasks. Formatting by myself isn't as huge of a hassle as I thought it would be, but that's only because I don't have paperbacks yet. Formatting ebooks is way easier. The moment I decide to turn some books and collections into paperbacks, I'll be sure to delegate formatting to someone who can do it for me. If I were to write mostly novels, there would be a huge list of tasks I wouldn't have to do myself, and that would make my life so much easier.

And there you have it, that's my honest take on this subject. I tried sharing my experience the best that I could without boring you to death. This is simply my experience, and it doesn't mean that yours would be the same. Do whatever works best for you.

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