So I told myself that I was going to take the summer off--no writing. At least, not serious writing, not book-like writing with an intent to pitch the idea (or maybe even the complete manuscript?). But I'm finding that writing is a sort of compulsion for me. Oh I've always known that, but for some reason finishing a pair of novels has proven to me that it's much, much easier to write a novel than a collection of short stories. At least, I think it's much easier. So, even though I promised myself no novels this summer, I've skipped right over my first loves of short stories and poetry, and I'm in the thick of novel number three. I think I've taken the easy path. Here's why.
Why it is easier to write a novel than a collection of short stories:
1. You get to know the characters as if they were your family and friends. I mean, you know them. You know their favorite foods, their likes and dislikes, their mannerisms and quirks... It's no mystery to you how they would respond in this situation or that. Once you know them, it's easy and enjoyable to write about them. (Small caveat: you fall in love with them and want them all to have "happily ever after" endings.)
2. The plot doesn't have to be 100% nailed down when you begin. When I write a short story, I know exactly what is going to happen before I put my pen to paper. This is a bit unnatural for me because I like to let my stories unfold; I like to let my characters learn and grow and shape the plot. My novels start out with a loose focus that slowly becomes more and more clear to me as I write. Sometimes I'm surprised by the direction the book takes.
3. You can be wildly creative. There's room in a novel for lots of fun stuff--I can have a neat experience and then turn around and write it right into the manuscript. My experiences are the fodder for my character's experiences.
4. Writing a novel is a "back burner" activity. No matter what I'm doing, when I'm writing a novel it's always on low heat on the back burner of my mind. It's always cooking and therefore (I hope) getting better the longer it stews. It's like that old conventional wisdom that tells you to sleep on your problems and you'll wake with the solution. The longer I "sleep" on a book, let it burn slow on the back burner, the more it comes alive to me. It almost writes itself.
5. I can't stop, so why try? If every short story I dream up soon morphs into the beginnings of a novel, why fight it?
Hardly wisdom, but thought I'd share. If you've ever wanted to write a novel but thought that it seemed too insurmountable a task, it's not. I'll be your ten-second cheerleader: You can do it!