Why Writing a Short Story is Harder Than Writing a Novel

Have you ever had to deal with people saying ‘At least short story writing is easier than novel writing’? Dan and I write short stories as well as publish them and this comment is one we hear often. On the surface, this is an understandable assumption to make. Short stories involve far fewer words than novels (so easier, right?) and, in a lot of cases, short fiction tells part of a story rather than trying to deal with the whole thing.

Well, enough is enough. Flip these ‘positives’ on their heads and you get a different picture.

As a short story writer, you have fewer words with which to set a scene (because, in most cases, too much description is detrimental to the story), and fewer words to weave an engaging plot. But that is not enough! You have to be detailed and draw the reader into your story; you have to involve some emotion to make them care about what you have written; time must lose meaning when the reader is taken into your world.

Not only that, you might have to jump straight into a specific section of the overarching story (in our 2000 word count, anyway). Still, it has to be believable and have the whole story in place, no matter how behind-the-scenes this backstory is. So you have to create as much as you can in as short a word count as possible, absolutely no wasted words. Readers are less forgiving when it comes to a short story. They expect to be moved, or made to laugh, or surprised, in as short a time as possible. A novel has the luxury of time and a reader is likely to overlook a slow paragraph because they assume the rest of the chapter will make up for it.

Combining a short word count with an extremely effective piece is no easy task. Every writer who submits to us has had to deal with their craft going largely unnoticed, even by those closest to them. I’ve only scratched the surface of why a short story is harder than a novel, but I hope this is a good place to start when standing up for yourself. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back.