Writing a novel is not like writing a short story!
I have sold nearly two hundred short stories to national magazines but although this has been a good apprenticeship for writing my first novel, nothing prepared me for how different it would be.
For a start, there is no quick reward for your work. The turnaround for a story is anything between a few days and a few months (depending on the magazine and how long you’ve been writing for them) and I love the adrenaline rush when I get an email to say I’ve made a sale. There is nothing similar in the novel writing world… everything is so slow!
Instead of taking two days to write (as my short stories do) my novel took a year. Then there’s the agent hunt. I didn’t need an agent for my magazine stories but I certainly did for the novel (this meant another wait, first to hear back after I’d sent my initial submission, then another while the full manuscript was read). And let’s not forget the time-consuming edits – requested short story edits take me about half an hour but the recent novel edits for my agent took over a month. I haven’t got to the publishing stage yet, but I can guarantee that this will be another slow process. I have written, subbed and had a story published in a month before – I’ll be lucky to have my novel see the light of day in a couple of years!
A novel also needs a lot of stamina. A short story isn’t tiring, it’s over and done with in 1000-4000 words but an 80,000 word novel? Phew! That’s hard work.
You’ve also got to love your novel characters (or at the very least find them interesting). If you don’t get on with the protagonist in your short story, you won’t ever have to meet him or her again but you will have to live with your novel characters for months if not years – it helps if you get on.
Also, your novel characters will get into your head in a way that your short story characters won’t. I write a short story every week (unless I’m on holiday). That is nearly fifty main protagonists I invent in a year and I can’t possibly remember every one of them, or even know them that well. By contrast, my novel has six significant characters and I know them almost as well as I know my own family.
I wish I’d know all these things before I started my novel but do I regret making the change from short story to something longer? Absolutely not!