Posts Tagged Moving On From Short Story to Novel

Out of My Depth!

I’ve mentioned before my intention to enter the Good Housekeeping Novel Writing Competition and I’ve been beavering away at my entry since January. I wrote 20,000 words and then paused to take stock and prepare my entry which had to consist of the first 5,000 words plus a full synopsis. The synopsis was a challenge because until then I’d been writing without a detailed plan but after some thought I managed it.

Then I decided to send the 5,000 words and synopsis to novelist Patricia McAughey (who writes as Patricia Fawcett) for a critique. Patricia reads for the RNA New Writers’ Scheme and also runs a reasonably priced private critique service for all types of fiction except fantasy, sci-fi or children’s. She can be contacted through her website for a quote.

Patricia sent me a detailed report which very tactfully told me that my story didn’t work because I was still in ‘short story’ mode. She said, “Slow down. You are rushing things. I know it is tempting to try to get all the ideas down but you are writing a longer piece and there is no rush. Relax.”

She went on to explain that I was giving the reader no idea about the setting. One of the scenes was in a Derbyshire cafe but I didn’t describe the interior, the waitress, the view or even indicate whether the place was full or empty. Patricia suggested painting a broad picture of the scene and then honing in on small details such as a woman trying to get a pushchair through the gap in the chairs.

There was a similar problem with my characters. Patricia said, “… I don’t have any great affection as yet for either of the two central characters simply because I don’t know enough about them…”. I had omitted rather obvious details like what the heroine did for a living or what she looked like!

It wasn’t all doom and gloom. I did get words of praise for my dialogue (which I love writing) and my synopsis.

So if you’re trying to move from short stories to longer fiction, take a moment to check that you’ve added depth to your writing. Make sure you haven’t skimmed over the setting or the characters’ backgrounds. Have you described what it smells like in the kitchen? Have you mentioned what your hero is wearing as he meets the heroine for the first time?

Later this week Patsy Collins, a successful short story writer and debut novelist, will be guesting on this blog and attempting to explain how she made the leap from short stories to seeing her first novel published.

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Moving On From Short Story to Novel

I’ve been reading Della Galton‘s new book – Moving On from Short Story to Novel. Moving On From Short Story To Novel by Della Galton

It’s written in an easy to read friendly tone and does what it says on the tin – it explains the different techniques required for writing full length fiction compared to short stories.

When I attempted NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago I fell into the trap of thinking that to fill the pages of a novel it was necessary to pack it with action. I had something new happening all the time. Della explains that this is not the case, what is needed is more depth – i.e. more characterisation, detail of setting etc. She uses examples from her own novels and stories, including a synopsis (great to see a successful synopsis ‘in the flesh’!) and a chart showing how to keep track of what’s happening in each chapter (one of those things that you see and then say – that’s obvious so why didn’t I think of it? Sometimes we just need these things pointing out). 

Della also explains the concept of a theme within a novel. Something that I’ve always thought sounds very literary and highbrow but in fact it’s something that many writers do unconsciously. Theme boils down to the focus of your novel and, according to Della, if you can identify that theme then both plotting and editing become easier.

The only downside to this book is that it’s not available on Kindle and incidentally, it’s written in such a way that a novelist could use it as an aid to moving to shorter fiction.

Now all I have to do is put all this brilliant advice into practice…