Why I Don't Write Short Stories

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A few days ago, I was asked why I don't write short stories so I can become "known" in the publishing world.

First let me say, I doubt I could write a decent short if my life depended on it. Short stories are a lot more difficult harder to write. Short stories require new plot lines and new characters for every one you write. You also have to condense the story line into a few pages at most, limiting character development, and putting a real strain on the overall story development.

I also think, if I were to become a short story writer, it may make it more difficult to morf back into a novel writer. There's a different dicipline required for each form.

A short story writer gets a reward quickly, when he/she finishes the story, then again if and when the story sells. For a novel writer, that exhiliration of having finished the project is slow in coming and the thrill of a sale even slower. But the rewards of making a sale with a novel are FAR greater than any short story writer can ever hope to achieve, unless he/she has sold a few novels first and the shorts can be combined into an anthology.

Personally, I don't have time to mess with shorts. I have two novels nearing salability. Why should I take the time to write stuff that probably won't get published anyway, and will take away from my work on my novels?

I realize, some people will disagree with me, but that's the way I see it.
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About Paul West

Paul West is a freelance writer and novelist. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Paul claims to be a "Prune Picker," though he now makes his home in Taylorsville, Utah.

You can follower him on Twitter: @PaulWWest

Published: Thursday, June 21, 2007

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Earlier today, I was asked how I find time to write with my busy schedule. He also asked my opinion regarding 1st person POV versus 3rd person POV. Here are my responses:


Sitting down (butt in chair, so to speak) at regular periods to write a novel has never been something I've been able to do. My work schedule and family responsibilities have never allowed it. So, I work on my novels sporadically, whenever I get a chance, and often the muse is just not there. At times I’ve had to just do it anyway. Having to post 2 to 4 chapters per month on a critique board helps force me.

I'm not advocating that approach, just complaining that I'm stuck in a rut of wishing I could have a certain, dedicated writing time, but not being able. Still, I'm proof that it can work, assuming you're willing to take 20 years to complete your first novel like I've done with "Sweet Revenge." I have to admit, however my second novel, "GRETA!", is going a lot faster. I’m about 5 or 6 chapters from finishing it, and I’ve already written the last chapter.

As for first person versus third, that's a tough one. Both POVs have their pluses and minuses. It depends on how much you need to get into the head of the main character, and can you do that in third person? In my opinion, I think you can, but it's a lot harder to truly make the reader feel what the main character is feeling in third person. I wrote "Sweet Revenge" in third person because I felt a need to get into the heads of several of the characters, including the antagonist. I'm writing "GRETA!” in first person because I didn't feel the need to get into anyone else's head. The protagonist is the only one I need to express what I'm trying to get across.

Just as a side note: I posted the first few chapters of "GRETA!" on a message board and just got a great compliment from a guy who just read it. It sounded true to him, and he could feel how some kids feel about the under-privileged. I think first person is working well here.

However, with “Sweet Revenge” the main comments I’ve gotten (from agents) is that they did not like my narrative voice. Hmm. That means third person isn’t working as well as I’d like. It’s a lot more difficult to get into the heads of third person characters. Still, I do not think it is impossible. Just difficult.
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