Sprinters On The Marathon

I’ve always wanted to write books. Always wanted to craft entire worlds out of my imagination and give life to new characters who could dwell there.

Up until recently though, I’ve always written stories. Stories under the blessed 50k mark, some still quite long but still just a story nonetheless. Writing stories is easy, almost as easy as running a short distance at a full sprint. Anyone can sprint, though not everyone can do it well, everyone can pick up their heels and run full out for a short distance.

But writing a novel is more like a marathon. Anyone that attempts it on the spur of the moment, without any training of forethought is going to, at the very least, fall short of the goal. At the worst, people who commit to a marathon without training or some kind of plan, will only manage to get themselves rather badly hurt.

So when I approached my first novel, I had a plan. Well, I had someone else’s plan. For my first novel I followed the Norton Novel Writing Style (I think it’s patented) though I quickly found it to be not at all for me. The book suffered and I suffered. Languishing around as I floundered, looking for a better plan.

I’ve tried it a few different ways now and I think I’m getting better and better with each of these marathons that I commit to. Still, every now and again I’m struck by how different my writing is in short form rather than long form. There are days when I’m writing a novel where I feel like I’m pushing on through the barriers in a rather dogged, inelegant way that would never ever be the case when I’m writing a short piece.

There’s all kinds of reasons for that. When writing a novel you have to keep writing even when the muse isn’t with you. When writing a short, you can let the muse wrap you up and take you away, finishing the whole thing while the muse is still riding you hard and heavy. When you’re writing a novel there’s so much that you feel the need to convey, that all that space that originally seems so appealing is quickly eaten up and you find yourself fretting over the things you just couldn’t squeeze in. When you’re writing a short there’s never really enough space to explain everything, so you set up your scenes differently, attempting to force the reader to get in context what you can’t take the time to say in words.

Someday I’d like to get the two parts of my writing in sync with each other. So that I no longer feel like there’s such a huge depth of difference between my long and short forms.

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