There are two main reasons why I write short stories instead of novels (at least at this point in my life). The short answer is writing style and stamina.
When they edit their first draft, most people need to cut out bits that are unrelated to the story. They tend to add lots of description and go off on tangents that don’t really add to plot, character or story. For me, it’s the exact opposite. Generally, my writing style is very minimalist. I don’t have excessive descriptions, I plan ahead so I rarely write something that doesn’t end up in the final draft, and when it’s time to edit I always have to work hard to flesh out the location and any other descriptions that play like a movie inside my head but don’t necessarily land up on the page where someone else can read it.
So the short story format comes very naturally to me. Instead of trying to flesh out something to novel length, I tell the story in the amount of words needed, and no more.
Additionally, while I personally love reading seemingly never-ending series comprised of books thick enough to kill someone if you throw it at them (hello Wheel of Time!), I just can’t seem to sit still and write anything that long. It’s not that I get bored with the story itself, it’s the physical sitting down and writing it. I am the poster child for instant gratification, it seems, and short stories are perfect for this. While the whole process of writing and editing still takes time, it’s a much shorter cycle that gives me many rewarding moments in a faster time frame. That makes me happy.
Which is why I’m currently writing a series of short stories (or in this case novelettes) that would probably have worked very well as one novel, but instead will be serialized into shorter installments. Hopefully this will keep both me and the readers wanting more after each story. And, as fellow writer Nils Ödlund said in his post on writing a novella, I also quite like the idea of writing something you can read in an evening instead of mindlessly watching yet another rerun on TV.
What are your thoughts on short stories? Do you like reading them or do you prefer full-length novels? Do you write short stories?