While many of us shy away from a big project like a novel, according to novelist Writing the NoveLawrence Block, the novel is the place to start.  Block argues that:

  •     The market for short fiction is gone
  •       A reasonably prolific novelist can earn a decent living.
  •       Skill is less at a premium

I find this last point interesting. A poet has sixteen lines to get their idea across. A short story writer has maybe two thousand words, but the novelist has between sixty and a hundred thousand words. The novelist can come at her idea from many different directions. And she doesn’t have to be a great writer – her characters and the story carry the reader along. It would be easy for me to claim Novelistthat’s why I’m a novelist – because skill is less at a premium, but I know that I must work hard at my writing. Readers are not fooled.


9 responses to “

  1. I agree with you, Ed, that readers are not fooled. However, they will forgive a great deal for a good plot or a good character/set of characters. So although novel writing requires the stamina of a long distance runner, if someone has that quality less pure talent/creativity is, I believe, necessary for them to succeed. Lawrence Block’s a good examle of this, by the way.

  2. Block has a good point. A short story doesn’t allow a writer much leeway. Every word and sentence must count. In a longer work — and, yes, it takes a lot longer to write — there is more time to develop a character and a story line. Not that I’ve had much success so far with either format!

    • Thanks, David.
      It’s one of the reasons I write novels — I don’t think I’m a great writer. Yes, I can construct good, short sentences, but I’m not a poet — I mean some people can write ordinary things in a poetic way.
      Not to worry. Success comes. Persistence is the word.

  3. This is an interesting post. I am a little confused by the idea that the short fiction market is gone. When I look at the bookstore shelves for SF/Fantasy, in particular, there seems to be a growing number of anthologies. Perhaps it’s just that genre.

    I don’t disagree with the overall thought that novels are the place to start. Though, working on short stories as a diversion can sharpen one’s plotting and pacing abilities.

  4. I’m not sure I would agree with any of Block’s three points, but they make for interesting debate. No matter how many words the writer uses, if the quality of writing, the characters and the plot don’t capture attention right from the start, few people will bother to finish reading them.

    Ed, I’ve tagged you in a Lucky 7 meme originally introduced to me by Laura Best. I don’t usually participate in such things, but this one’s fun. It’s an opportunity to introduce everyone to a few lines of your current work in progress. I’m hoping you’ll play along. Come on over and check it out at my blog: http://bit.ly/GKxSWs

    • Thanks for your comments, Carol. It’s great to have a debate going. And thank you for the Lucky 7. I enjoyed your 7 lines — The teenagers etc.
      Right now my big challenge is to learn facebook and so far I’m not doing very good.

  5. Breaking into the noveling world is scary. And, in the genre of erotic romance I find myself up against a wall when talking about it. It would seem most feel the genre is all about the juicy bits and nothing to do with plot driven ideas.

    I would love to be one of the writers who help change that idea. Nothing like a great story with characters you can fall in love with. That is after all my perceived idea about my chosen genre.

    Though I know it seems to be a general thought one would not have to be a great writer to get into this genre, ironically it is the biggest stress (besides writing a cover letters and synopsis), I desire to tell a great story and every time I read my drafts I just hope it is good enough.

    • Wow. Lots of great thoughts in your comment. It seems you want the best — characters people remember. It is so interesting to listen to people talk about books. Some tell you about the great characters in the book, while others tell you the plot. In one of my classes, the students began talking about the plot of the DaVinci Code, but no one could remember the name of the female in the story and only one person remembered the name of the male. Definitely plot driven.
      Your response indicates you come down on the character side of the argument and I agree with you.

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