Short Stories or Novels: What to Start Your Career With

I'm no guru, and I hate having to start an article this way, but let me get this across: this is all just my whackadoo opinion.


So, if you're a new writer, you might have asked yourself, or other writers, what you should start out writing. Should you jump head first into novels, or should you start with short stories?

Well, it depends. Also, it doesn't matter. 

Because, as a new writer, everything you write at this time will be practice. I'm not saying you won't be able to sell any of this practice. I certainly sold some of my crap to small publishers back in the day. But you're at a point where freedom is infinite and you can do whatever the fuck you want.

This is a time where you're going to learn about yourself as a writer. You might find you suck at novels and excel at the shorts. Or vice versa.

Ray Bradbury had always suggested writers start out with short stories. So, being a fan of Ray-ray, I started writing short stories. I was also deathly afraid of writing a novel. 

"You mean I have to write a query and a synopsis if I want to get a novel published? Forget that!"

Thing is, everyone who read my short stories said the same thing: "This feels like it should be a novel."


Now, I'm not saying I'm bad at writing short stories (I just recently sold one for an anthology called HOLDING ON BY OUR FINGERTIPS) but through my practice, I discovered I'm naturally a novel-length storyteller. And not even a big novel. I've never written anything over 90k.

I've heard people say that short stories are harder to write than novels.

I think they're right. 

Novels give you room to run, to explore shit. 

Short stories have to be sharp and to the point.

On the flip side, more people read novels, just a fact. While there are many more short story markets out there today, thanks to the internet, it's still tough as balls to get in to semi-pro and professional markets. Hell, it's tough to get in to token markets that give you nothing more than your name on a web page.

That's not to say novels are easier to sell. And though I'd like to say that there are far fewer people out there with finished novels versus finished short stories, I'm sure I'd be wrong. I used to read slush for an online horror magazine and, holy shit are there a lot of people out there writing. And, holy shit there are a lot of people out there who write out their revenge fantasies.

Whatever gets you through the day, Charlie.

Many of the award-winning short story writers out there write nothing but short stories. Same goes for novelists. Then, there are those crazy folks who write both and can do no goddamned wrong.

The best advice I can give to any of you out there who don't know where to start is this:

Go with your gut, and write both short stories AND novels. If people tell you that every short story you write feels like a novel, try expanding it. You'll figure out what you fit best with. 

Try without giving a damn if you fail. You'll only grow through experimentation and falling on your ass a few times.

Perseverance, y'all. Perseverance.

Till next time, I'm out.