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I have written some short stories (in fact, they are flash fiction). When I'm writing short stories, the ideas and the structure come to my mind by themselves.

Something different happens when I try to write long stories; It starts with something simple, but then I add more and more stuff until it gets too complicated. Another thing that happens is that I lose interested in the story after some weeks. I just feel that it is not a story that I want to write. Other times, I just tell myself: I have nothing else to say in this story, it should end here.

Does this happen to a lot of beginners? How to overcome this problem?

(Sometimes I think that I should just accept my fate as writer that only writes short stories. Or just write novels that are composed of interconnected short stories, like David Mitchell's Ghostwritten.)

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*is that I lose interest –  Aerovistae Jun 7 '12 at 13:13

7 Answers 7

up vote 11 down vote accepted

I've been there myself, stuck trying to work out how to make things flow in a larger context, but just feeling like I can't pull it off. It's frustrating all around, but I can at least tell you what I did to get over it. It be of some help.

  1. Keep trying to write the longer stories. It might be frustrating now, but if you don't work at it it won't ever come together for you. If you feel like the story has hit a dead end or you can't keep going on it don't be afraid to set it aside for a bit and try something else.
  2. Take it a step at a time. If length is the problem, don't just jump into a novel, take it in steps. You said you mostly write flash fiction, well move onto short stories, the longer short stories, novellas, and then onto full novels. As you work out each stage your confidence will grow.
  3. A long story doesn't mean having more stuff going on. True, you have more room to have more events, but the main benefit of the longer length is that you have more room to tell the story itself. While you can just add more events and struggles for your characters, you can also use the space to expand on the characters them selves. Show more of there interactions and motivations. You have the room to flesh out the story and make the players more interesting. Something that's much harder to do in a short story.
  4. Stories usually end up as long as they need to be. If your struggling to write a longer story maybe it's because that story doesn't need to be that long. It might be time to play around with outlining or brain storming to see if you can find longer and fuller tales.

That being said, all or none of this advice can work for you... well except for the first one. Keep trying to write long stories, it will help above everything else.

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Try taking a Screenwriting class, one that teaches structure -- or at least plan out what will happen in your story before you sit down to write it. The other good part about taking a class is that it will give you the feeling that you've got to finish the story, like it or not, in order to finish the class. So even if you get bored with the story you'll still have reason to see it through.

I've found that by understanding and defining the structure of a project, both at a macro and micro level, a couple things happen:

  1. Writing speed is increased drastically
  2. You are no longer writing a "long story", you are simply writing from the current position up until the next plot piece or structure point. The immediate goal is no longer as amorphous as "to write a novel", it is only to get to the next point.

I used to have a similar feeling, that completing a long-form project was unattainable, and the #1 thing that Screenwriting 1-3 did for me was show me that it is within reach.

As a shameless self-promotion, I've written an iPhone app that helps you do this. It's called StorySkeleton and it exports to native Scrivener and Final Draft, as well as rtf and txt. You can find it here: http://www.storyskeleton.com

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I think its the same for everyone, I myself is a newbie in writing and does not have much knowledge about it. When I start to write I get short of words but once I have written few lines and got comfortable in it I continue writing endlessly even things that are not necessary. I think we can overcome this if we first create a rough draft of it and then re-write it again.

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Yes, it happens to a lot of people.

Writing is hard work, like anything else. You say:

I just feel that it is not a story that I want to write.

Real writing is re-writing. You need to bang out a first draft, then read through it. Then you need to make notes on how the book differed from your expectations. Ask yourself:

  • What was the book I wanted to write?
  • What I actually got?
  • What changes do I need to make to get the book I wanted?

And then you either completely rewrite the book, or modify the 1st draft. For beginners, complete rewriting maybe a better option. Even though it may seem like work, it will save time in the long run, as you are not trying to duct tape something broken.

You are correct in your idea about a novel being a lot of interconnected stories. All you need to do is, ensure there is a strong theme / conflict unifying the stories.

Like Steve Drennon and Fox Cutter have said, you need to keep practising. Writing a long novel is like running a marathon- you can't just go out and do it. You may need somepractice and groundwork before you are ready.

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As I've said elsewhere, don't pad your stories with, er, effluvia. If your idea is a short story, leave it short. Not every writer has to write long pieces. I'm reasonably sure Shakespeare didn't write novels. If short stories are your strength, your passion, and your interest, stick with them.

Now, if you want to write something longer as an exercise, there are plenty of methods you can look up to help you do that. But don't do it because you think "only novelists are real writers" or that you're "supposed" to write books.

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3  
effluvia - Hahaha! +1 –  John Smithers Jun 7 '12 at 15:53
3  
Just keeping the mods happy and taking the Roget's for a walk. :) –  Lauren Ipsum Jun 7 '12 at 18:24

Think of your story as separate scenes. Your idea about writing a novel of interconnected short stories is basically the same thing. Each chapter is a different scene, or a different short story, if you will. Take the time to figure out where you want to go with your story and then start documenting that.

A lot of writers will get an idea of what they want to write and then just sit down and start writing. The problem with that is you don't always have a clear understanding of where you want to go or how you want to get there. Take the time to outline each scene so that you have a roadmap. You don't have to put a lot of detail into the outline, just make sure you have one.

Try starting out with a couple of major characaters and an idea of what you want to do with them. Then take the time to plan for them to do something in each chapter (short story), and then keep adding chapters to help guide them through a process that takes them where you want them to go.

Sometimes it's just hard to maintain your focus, and that is where an outline can prove to be most benficial. It allows you to break up the work into smaller pieces while also providing you with a structure that helps you see the big picture.

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Keep going forever no matter what.

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Also maybe try planning out your story before you write it. And take long breaks and think about whether the things you're adding in along the way are truly necessary and truly add to the story. –  Aerovistae Jun 7 '12 at 13:23

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