Novel Writing and Construction vs Short Stories

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One question I see a lot from new writers is how to write a novel. Since Novels are totally different beasts from short stories, I figure it’s time to make a post on the subject matter.

First thing to remember is that events don’t necessarily have to be condensed down as they are in short stories. Most short stories have anywhere from 3-15k word count, while novels can be anything from 60k (in young adult) to hundreds of thousands of words (80-120k for new writers while established writers can go into 200-300k without too many complaints from their publisher.). This lends itself to exploring the issues of the story more in depth than in the short story.

Let’s start with the first major issue in novel writing: the beginning. Most new writers have heard the saying ‘grab the reader right away,’ which is true. However, what most do is start the book off with a car chase, an explosion, and fight or some other action. That’s not necessarily necessary to get a reader’s attention. What is important is to make the best use of the first 5-6 paragraphs of the novel, because that’s where most readers make their decision about going further from. So, make this count.

Chapter Construction:

This is something that is asked a lot, and here’s a basic idea. Each Chapter should convey a scene or a part of a scene. If you look at a lot of the bestselling books on the shelves, this is something that happens a lot of the time. The reasoning behind it is that not only does it push the story forwards, but it gives the reader a place to put the book down to either go to sleep or anything else they need to do.

However, this doesn’t mean one needs to cram a massively big scene into one chapter either. My two big battle scenes in my first Talia novel are split into two or three chapters. Why is this? Because I do a lot of point of view changes during the battle, thus allowing the reader to be immersed in the story and be able to see how things are progressing are or viewed from both sides of the conflict.

Remember: the word count in a novel allows you to go into greater depth than the short story does, and it can show itself in how your chapters are written.

Point of View:

    Short stories, by their very nature, limit the amount of POVs (point of views) that are able to be shown. This is not true with a novel. New characters (either another villain or ‘good guy’) can be added without much trouble. Switches in POV during a scene, with the appropriate line break, are not uncommon in a novel. This allows the writer to be able to show (like I mentioned above) things from multiple angles.

    For Example: Talia and her sisters are in a battle on a planet. During the chapters assigned to it, you get to see her POV, each of her sisters, and that of the two main villains at that point. Why so much? Because it brings the scene to life. Here’s a real life example. During the Battle of the Bulge, were there not two stories to the events? One from the American troops at Bastogne and the German troops surrounding it. Both sides saw the battle differently than the other, which would be their point of view. The same happens here. I allow the reader to learn how the characters are on the ‘villain’s’ side and their thoughts, feelings and motivations. Make sense?

Narration:

Novels, by their very nature, allow for more narration than in a short. This gives the author a chance to explore the world (setting) of the characters that isn’t given in a short story. What makes the setting special? What are the days like? The cities? Planets? Each of these can be explored in depth.

Characters:

    Each of these can be explored more in a novel. What makes him or her tick? The advantage of a novel is that you the author have the time to show the reader a lot about the character. Now this doesn’t mean go into their backstory in minute detail. Everyone has one and it’s boring, so don’t nail them with it.

Plot:

    A lot of things in the plot can take place in a novel. More events can take place due to the additional word count. How many different events would’ve happened in ‘A Most Dangerous Game’ if the author wrote is as a novel. Scenes that took place in the short story could’ve been fleshed out more, and the interactions between Rainsford and Zaroff could’ve been built upon. Think of how much more dialogue could’ve taken place between the two, given additional information on the events between the two. How much more action could’ve been shown? What about the final fight between Rainsford and Zaroff? That could’ve be shown to the reader if it were a novel (depending on what the author wanted).

Word Count:

    This is the final thing I want to mention. 80-120k is the number for brand new authors to strive for when trying to get commercially published. It is the number the Big 6 like. So, keep that in mind. However, with that said, there’s plenty of space to build upon the things you would write in your short story.

Hopefully this’ll help.

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