The message baked into that question: I want to write a novel but I’ve never taken a fiction writing class before and there’s nothing called ‘Novel I’, so what do I do?
And the answer: take Fiction I.
Because Fiction I is going to teach you the how-to’s of writing a piece of fiction, whether you’re wanting to write a short story or a novel.
The basics of fiction are the same for short stories as they are for novels: character, plot, point of view, description, dialogue, setting/pacing, voice, theme. So, by taking Fiction I, you’d be grounding yourself in what you need to build either type of piece.
I’ll let you in on a secret though: if you call our office, we’re going to nudge you ever so gently towards writing short stories first. Why? A few reasons.
One, it’s easier to learn the beginning/middle/end of the storytelling process working on something short than on something long. Novels have so many moving parts—multiple characters, long spans of time, often more than one location, sub-plots and story threads—and at the beginning, it’s enough to just understand the basic building blocks of making a story.
Two, it’s more…doable to craft something relatively short than it is to generate several hundred interesting, transporting, meaningful pages.
And three, there’s something very motivating about finishing something. Spoiler alert: novels take years to finish. But short stories take…well, less time than that. And, where it can be daunting, or even discouraging to go years without feeling the satisfaction of typing the words ‘The End’, think how energizing the opposite would be.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Writing a short story is not easy. Imagine the kind of skill, restraint, deftness it takes to bake the perfect cupcake. Writing ‘the perfect’ short story flexes those same muscles. But still, you’d probably have an easier time baking 12 perfect cupcakes for the school bake sale than a multi-layered wedding cake with frosting and filling and fondant ON YOUR OWN WEDDING DAY. Which is kind of what writing a novel is like.
I know, I know, you still want to write the Great Novel. But if you could craft a stand-alone short story around your novel-to-be’s main character, couldn’t that help you write that novel down the road? And build you as a writer in the process?
So, start with Fiction I. Learn your craft. Embrace the short story. Finish something. THEN take Novel II and tackle that big ole cake, with a confidence you’d never have had if you’d just jumped into the novel first.
That’s the long and the short of it. But, of course, give us a call if you want to talk more.