There’s a school of thought that says you should begin with writing short stories and work your way up to novels; that the short form will provide you with the background and skill set you need to plot and characterize your way through the long.
I tend to think that’s like saying you should start by eating apples and work your way up to oranges. They’re entirely different, er, fruits (I was going to say animals, but, well), and I’ve never thought being good at one means you’ll be good at the other.
Me, I’m good at novels. I’m good at ideas that keep right on trucking along and develop over hundreds of pages, not tens or even fewer. Short stories are much harder for me, both to read and to write. The single thrust of a short story has to be damned clever, or profound, or witty, for it to work really well, and I think that’s flat-out hard to do. I admire people who can do it consistently and well.
I have written three short stories in the last few days, and hope to write another couple by the end of the week, in plans of doing a short fiction post week over at my main journal, mizkit.com.
Clearly I have lost my mind.
I’m sure this is good practice for something. I’m not sure what; for an eventual anthology of my own stories, maybe. Or for being invited to participate in anthologies. I’m certainly unlikely to get rich whipping out 2500 word stories and selling them, since venues for shorts often can’t pay a lot.
I think the crux of it is that it’s a challenge. It’s something I’m not especially good at, and I’d like to be a dab hand at most aspects of my chosen career, so I need to practice. I’ve spent many, many years practicing writing long stories. A week here or there practicing writing short ones probably isn’t going to get me up to the same speed, but at least it’s a chance of improvement.
So what are you working on that’s not your natural strength?