Short Stories Don’t Count

But have you written a novel yet?

I got asked that question often when I was writing short stories. What is it about novels that people assume every writer wants to write them? Is there a certain prestige for the writer who can add “novelist” to their CV?  Forget the fact that short stories are challenging to write, keeping the word count to a minimum, writing tight prose, finding the perfect flow, most people seemed only to care if I’d written a novel. Some how the 40+ short stories I’d managed to get published did little to impress some. (Not that I was looking to impress. I was just looking toward that next submission, that next chance to see my words in print.) Truthfully, I knew my stories would be read by a few as literary magazines are pretty much available only through submission, and circulation numbers tend to be low. Still, that didn’t matter. Someone, someone who knew something about publishing, wanted to publish what I’d written. Yippee!

What is it about writing that causes some people to ask  such a question? Would they look at a potholder someone sewed and asked, “But have you made a quilt?” A pair of knitted mittens and ask, “Have you knitted an afghan?” Does this mean the short story is looked at as something less, as if the writer isn’t good enough to write a full-length novel? Maybe I’m just sensitive.

Perhaps in some people’s books (pardon the pun) real writing comes in a book bound with your name and your name only, the rest of it doesn’t really count.

Well, I’m here to say that writing short stories is REAL writing. Writing is writing, simple and true, and has little to do with the length of a story. The story is what counts. Some stories are short while others have longer, more intricate plotlines.

I happen to consider myself lucky. I have many wonderfully supportive friends and family who would cheer me on if I had a paragraph published. Seriously. They’re really the best.  They help keep me going those times when I feel like forgetting about it all.

I know it is a goal for many writers to craft a novel. It’s an admirable goal. There is nothing wrong with it. In fact, it’s right, more than right. Why not? Heck, having an entire book with your name on is nothing less than sweet. But while it’s nothing less than sweet, it’s not the goal of every writer out there nor should we assume it is.

 Here’s another thought as well, once you’ve had enough short stories published, a publisher somewhere may be interested in publishing your work in a collection with YOUR name on it! Now there’s an admirable goal as well. 🙂

What are your goals, writing or otherwise?

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