I’ve Got No Novel – Am I a Bad Author?

A Sinister Six

I’ve written short stories for a long time now, and surprisingly, I’m even quite fond of some of them! My first published work was my collection A Sinister Six , which contains six (surprisingly) of my favourites (plus a couple of bonus ones, but don’t tell anyone – A Sinister Eight doesn’t work as well). You should get it. Seriously. It’s just 99p. And it’s fucking awesome.

Aside from a shameless plug, the point of that was to say that I’ve never written a novel. Does it matter? Well, if you’re a new author, it absolutely doesn’t. My first short ‘story’ was all of 156 words, called The Photo.

The photo had been in his family for as long as Rick could remember.  He was not sure how it found its way to him, but he wished that it hadn’t.  Perhaps one day he would be rid of it.  One day.

The photo was six inches by four inches, landscape and depicted a number of people smiling at the photographer.  Folded and creased, the grainy black and white image was clear enough for Rick to pick out his father and mother, his grandfather and several other members of his family that he didn’t remember.

The first time he had looked at the photo, there were only half as many people in it.  Over the years, the number of people in the photo had continued to increase, until it seemed as if the picture could hold no more.  But somehow, it always managed.

Rick touched the picture gently.  His wife and children stared back at him.

That story would go on to become The Photograph in A Sinister Six, a much longer story, but still not a novel (good, though). As a new writer, I felt I had to go through those stages to be where I am today, five years further on.

I’m new, should I write short stories?

Well the answer to that is yes. Maybe. No. Well, that depends. It depends on what kind of person you are. You might be bursting with ideas for that novel and also, coincidentally, brimming with the confidence that you will need to be able to finish it. Oh and perseverance. And hard work. Did I miss anything? If that’s you, then launch right it and unload your ideas onto the page!

mosquito

Unfortunately (or not), I was not that guy and, to be honest, the idea of writing a novel never entered my mind until about four years in to this journey I’m on. I was happy writing short stories, not to mention I had the attention span of a thing that has a short attention span. I wanted to write a super-catchy hook, then I wanted to ramp up the tension and get straight to the climax. I didn’t have the patience to write all that crap that fits in between. I wanted to start, have excitement, then finish. Simple as.

Did that make me a bad writer?

I like to think not. I had a few early pieces published in online horror magazines, so someone must have thought the early stuff was at least passable. But what I did, was continue to progress. I read a lot of books and internet articles on the craft of writing, not to mention I took some courses and read shed loads of short stories. I look at some of my more recent short stories, and wonder if they could still be considered short. I’ve written Die, Blossom, Bloom at 20k words and Serial at 15k and the others are now coming in between 6-10k generally .

I think writing short stories served a couple of important purposes for me:

  • I was able to improve my craft. I got better.
  • I was able to put something in my author bio. Some credits, if you like.

Just answer the question: Should I write a short story?

If you’ve got one in you, absolutely. Get the benefits I’ve listed above: Get better.

But, should I feel bad if I’ve not written a novel?

short story

The novel is the gold standard for all authors. Sure, people read short stories (me, for example), but novels are where it’s at, right? Well, for me it has always been something to aspire to, but that doesn’t mean that you, as a new author, should give up if you haven’t written your magnum opus yet – I’m in year five, and have only just completed  my first first draft, and I’m pretty sure (at least I hope) that it’s not going to be the best thing I will ever write.

But it will be my first.

I started my novel in October last year, and completed the first draft in February this year. I’ve proved to myself that I’ve got the perseverance (after several false starts and unfinished manuscripts), which is part of the battle, and for that I’m proud of myself.

If you want to write a novel but aren’t sure if it’s in you at the present moment, you could do a lot worse than writing short stories. Get into the habit; submit them; experience rejection; experience the elation of acceptance; Grow; improve; repeat.

click to tweet

My novel is operating under the working title of Parklife.It is a horror story about a man and his son trapped in a stately home by the creatures of the forest. He must keep his son safe from the dangers from without, but also from within.

There is no cover yet, but for inspiration, I knocked this up in five minutes. I quite like it as a concept.

question

My question to you is how did you start your writing journey? Was it short stories, or did you jump straight in with both feet to novels? What would your advice to new writers be?

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