Saturday, 4 July 2015

Long Story Short

When I first started to write and try my hand at putting actual stories together, my paragraphs were way too short for my taste and the pace was too fast. It should go without saying that my writing at the time was also, to be quite frank, absolutely terrible. Whether or not anything has changed about might be for debate, but I did start to become more satisfied with my writing as it became noticeably more elaborate, dwelling on things for long paragraphs at a time. As a result, I had been equating the original lack of quality with brevity, and seeing how many beginning writers start with shorter paragraphs (a lot of amateur writing and fan fiction on the internet seems to be short), it did seem to imply a connection. But is it true?

The book I'm currently writing got me thinking about length. It's a radical departure from my published books in style, being a collection of several self-contained, relatively short stories about the same characters (Vellisia and her friends, for those familiar with Ssalia and the Dragons of Avienot). Unfortunately, I'm finding it extremely difficult to write these stories, which seemed illogical to me for a while. These are a lot shorter than what I'm used to writing; why have I been having so much trouble finishing each? Shouldn't it be easier? I believe the answer is quite simple and is actually right there: they're shorter than what I'm used to writing. Writing good short stories is proving to be more than an "easy mode" of writing longer ones. When I began to find my style and (hopefully) become a better writer, I focused on an elaborate style. Writing in a concise style is an entirely seperate skill and I keep being surprised by how hard it is to transform one into the other. It's not a downgraded version of my natural style; it's a different one and it's no easier to master than any other, as proven by the huge problems I'm encountering in handling it. It's easy to underestimate how difficult it is to optimise a story for a short length while still living up to my own quality standards rather than just writing short paragraphs due to lack of skill and I've been starting to feel that.

A brief writing style is not bad by definition. I believe that writing for different lengths requires different skills, just as writing for different genres and formats in general does. Being compact and still delivering a high quality story is more than just taking out a pair of scissors and cutting a longer story apart. If concise writing is what you do best, do it. Long form is apples, short form is oranges. Neither is comparatively superior, either can be a strength or weakness.

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