Short Story v.s. Novel
Have you ever poured over an extremely short story and wished you could read more about the intriguing characters? Conversely, have you plodded through a molasses-slow novel, certain that it could have been more effectively told in fewer words?
Welcome to the conundrum of every writer who has had an idea. From the beginning of the written word, authors have probably weighed the options between telling a tale succinctly or turning it into a lengthy tale.
If you have a plot that you're dying to develop, don't allow the short story versus novel challenge to stop you from writing; after all, if your muse is whispering in your ear, you'd be best advised to take note of her haunting song. But after you've put a few thoughts onto paper or computer screen, you may be left wondering where you should go from there.
Though no one can tell you exactly how your story should be written, consider a few facts geared toward helping you decide how many words you want to devote to your exciting, thought-provoking work of art.
1. Fiscally Fit or Yearning for Yen?Let's face it. If you write for money, you're better off with a novel. Why? People read them as "stand alone" books. Short stories, on the other hand, are usually read as part of a compilation. Though some magazines specifically print shorter stories, if you're serious about building your bank account, consider turning your tale into a novel, getting an agent, crossing your fingers, saying some prayers, doing some book signings, and, if all goes well, making some moolah.
2. Chilling Chapters or Succinct Scenes?After you've written a basic synopsis of the story you'd like to tell, you'll have a much better impression of whether you'd rather turn the various scenes into chapters (as in a novel) or leave them as pithy scenes (as in short stories). If you're completely befuddled, though, you can always just start writing. If your scenes are very lengthy, you might just as well discover that a novel is inevitable.
3. Personal Preference or Audience Anticipation?Finally, allow yourself to make a self-discovery (unless you have a following of readers who would draw and quarter you for jumping into another genre.) Admit what kind of tale (short story or novel) really gets your blood going. Usually, an author leans toward one or the other. Perhaps you enjoy telling a scene in great detail, getting into the minds of characters, and creating a winding, twisting plotline in novel form. Or maybe you prefer the nonstop nature of a short story. Use that personal preference to write the tale that you're sure will grip your readers' imaginations (as long as it won't kill your career in the process!)
In the end, whether you choose to write a short story or a novel, be assured that you'll always be able to move from one genre to another. After all, what is a novel but a series of short stories? And what is a short story but, in essence, a potential novel chapter?
Good luck, have fun, and happy writing!