Short Stories vs. Novels

I had never thought of myself as a short story writer.  But if it hadn’t been for short stories, I never would have “broken in” to this business.  I’d always wanted to write longer projects, and in fact, had written a huge saga-type western novel that I still have hopes of someday revamping (and it will take a LOT of revamping) and getting out there. That was the true book of my heart that set me on this path.  But I had a lot to learn about writing.

After sending the query and first three chapters out to several agents, I did land one. But after a year of nothing happening, I couldn’t see anything changing. I was getting very depressed, to say the least.

A friend of mine found a call for submissions from Adams Media for their Rocking Chair Reader series. This series was somewhat akin to the Chicken Soup For the Soul books, and my friend and I had already missed the deadline for the first of the series! But there was another anthology coming out as a follow up to the first one.  The second one was called, ROCKING CHAIR READER—MEMORIES FROM THE ATTIC.  These stories were true stories about something the writer had found years later that brought back memories of something that happened in childhood.  I had the perfect tale! I wrote it and submitted it, and thankfully, the editor liked it, as well. That led to several more publications with Adams Media through these anthologies, and then a few stories with Chicken Soup.

 But these stories were all based in truth, and I wanted to write fiction.  Western romance fiction.  It was shortly after that when I sold my first book, FIRE EYES, to The Wild Rose Press, and then branched out into contemporary romantic suspense with SWEET DANGER.  While writing these novels, I had been approached by a couple of publishing companies asking for fictional short stories.  But did I really want to go back to short stories?  The answer was YES. 

Writing those short stories in the beginning helped me realize that while I was adding to my portfolio of credits, I was also proving to myself that I could write compactly, in short story form.  Writing a short story is a totally different breed of cat than writing a novel. Making each word or scene count and not seeming to rush the story while doing it is something I will forever be working on, just to improve the telling of the story even more.

Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to tell a story in six words. This is what he wrote:  “Baby shoes for sale.  Never worn.”  If that doesn’t tell a story, I don’t know what does.

 Just this past month, I had three of my short stories that had been previously published in anthologies with Victory Tales Press re-released as stand-alone stories.  Two of them, SCARLET RIBBONS and HOMECOMING are western short stories, available for only .99 through their WESTERN TRAIL BLAZER imprint.  WHITE CHRISTMAS is available through Victory Tales Press for .99 as well. The best thing is…they all have JIMMY THOMAS covers. <G>

All of these stories are available at my Amazon page here:

    http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002JV8GUE 

Here’s a bit about these stories.

HOMECOMING:

 A holiday skirmish sends Union officer, Jack Durham, on an unlikely mission for a dying Confederate soldier—his enemy. As he nears his destination, the memories of the soldier’s final moments mingle with his own thoughts of the losses he’s suffered because of the War, including his fiance, Sarah. Will the miracle of Christmas be able to heal his heart in the face of what awaits him?

WHITE CHRISTMAS:
Since her divorce, busy ER nurse, Carlie Thomas, has been only too happy to spend Christmas on duty. This year, however, she’s decided to take a much-needed break. What she gets instead is an unexpected house guest, courtesy of her Uncle Rick. Derek Pierce, a fireman with no family, needs some special care after being injured in a fire. As Christmas approaches, Carlie discovers that she has more in common with Derek than being alone. But Derek’s wounds are more than just skin deep. Will they spend the holidays haunted by the ghosts of the past, or could this Christmas spark a new, beautiful friendship…or even something more?

SCARLET RIBBONS:

Miguel Rivera is known as El Diablo, The Devil. Men avoid meeting his eyes for fear of his gun. Upon returning to a town where he once knew a brief happiness, Miguel is persuaded by a street vendor to make a foolish holiday purchase; two scarlet ribbons.

When Catalina, his former lover, allows him to take a room at her boarding house, Miguel soon discovers a secret. Realizing that he needs the scarlet ribbons after all, he is stunned to find them missing.

Can a meeting with a mysterious priest and the miracle of the Scarlet Ribbons set Miguel on a new path?

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR THE DRAWING OF YOUR COPY OF YOUR CHOICE OF ONE OF THESE THREE STORIES! I WILL PICK TWO WINNERS AFTER 8:00 P.M. THIS EVENING.

Cheryl Pierson
A native Oklahoman, I've been influenced by the west all my life. I love to write short stories and novels in the historical western and western romance genres, as well as contemporary romantic suspense! Check my Amazon author page to see my work: http://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson
I live in Oklahoma City with my husband of 37 years. I love to hear from readers and other authors--you can contact me here: fabkat_edit@yahoo.com
Follow me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cheryl.pierson.92
http://petticoatsandpistols.com/sweepstakesrules

41 Comments

  1. An author whom I like leaves me wanting more, so short stories are not my favorite form, but I can see how helpful short stories would be for an author in refining the craft or giving expression to a thought that might not yield to full length treatment. For readers, short stories can be an introduction to new-to-them authors.

    Glad your were able to accomplish your goal of writing Western romance fiction.

    Somerset Maugham also had a pithy example of story telling.

  2. I like both. Sometimes I only have a small amount of time available to read. I like to start and finish a book quickly.

    These three stories cover the Old West, post Civil War and present day with a holiday theme, something for everyone. You can’t loose.

    Congrats on your success!

  3. Hi Cheryl!

    In my humble opinion, writing a short story is much harder than writing a longer novel. You have to choose your words so carefully, but still tell a complete story. But you do this SO well! Your short stories are wonderful, and I never feel cheated.

    A friend started writing shorter stories, because with two small children she just couldn’t finish a long novel. Writing short stories allows her to continue with her passion for writing without the guilt of never finishing the project.

    I admire you both. I’m too wordy and just can’t do it. :o)

  4. I love,love Christmas stories,they are my favorite by far,,,so now im dying to read those you had posted,lol,,,great post thanks,Vickie
    vlbelk(at)hotmail.com

  5. I enjoy short stories. It must be my poor attention span. I’m with Vickie, Christmas stories are also my favorite! Have a wonderful day!

  6. Cheryl, I love all three of these story lines… And I love Christmas stories too… I think this will be a great addition to my tbr pile….should I win of course.
    Smiles

  7. Hi Liz,
    I have another Christmas short story with The Wild Rose Press called A Night For Miracles. It was actually the first longer short story I had ever written, more like a novella, and my favorite out of everything I’ve ever written short story-wise because those characters just spoke to me. In fact…I got beat up on a couple of reviews for that short story because it wasn’t longer. One reviewer said she only gave it a 4 1/2 because she wished it had been a novel. LOLLOL Anyhow, I love writing both novels and short stories, but they are two totally different styles. My dad LOVED Somerset Maugham! And you know the odd thing is, in highschool English classes, those short stories were the things I hated to read the most, because they could never just be for enjoyment–there always had to be some hidden meaning that kids at that age usually don’t “get” because they haven’t lived long enough. LOL Thanks so much for your comment.
    Cheryl

  8. Hi Laurie,
    Thanks so much for your kind words. I should have mentioned in the very beginning that I used these covers because these are my newest ones and my publisher for these stories is having a huge CHRISTMAS IN JULY hoopla-thingey going on right now here:
    http://rebeccajvickery.blogspot.com/
    There are short stories and novels being given away and coupons given for reduced ordering prices on some of the items.
    Also, at the HAPPILY EVER AFTER site, you can also leave comments for Christmas read prizes as well. That’s here:
    http://happilyeverafterauthors2.blogspot.com/
    Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!
    Cheryl

  9. Hi Kirsten,
    I think you are right about writing short stories being hard for the very reason you mention. It IS hard to make every word count, and not be redundant, keep the story moving while making sure the reader knows what’s going on but isn’t obviously bombarded with the dreaded “info dump.”LOL I’m glad your friend went the route of short stories. There is a growing market out there for people who just want a quick read, something they can finish, because I’ve heard this said time and again, they want to feel like they’ve “finished” something. Isn’t that odd that your friend feels the same way about writing short stories and finishing them as the reader feels about reading them? I love both. I love to write the longer projects as well as the shorter ones. Thank you so much for your very kind words, Kirsten. That means a lot to me, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the stories of mine that you have read. I posted links above in Laurie’s reply to a couple of places where you can go to be entered for more free goodies too!
    Cheryl

  10. I enjoy short stories, too, as long as they are compacted and flowing to give an overview of the romance developing and being a HEA. I tend to like anthologies that are connected in some way by either the storyline, the season or setting, or characters from all the stories appearing in each one (that’s my favorite connection). Christmas is my fave short story read, but I’ve read others that are quite good about a ball or even a house party.

    The stories here sound really good, Cheryl!

  11. Hi Vickie,
    Have I got a treat for you! I love those Christmas stories, too. Rebecca Vickery, the owner of Victory Tales Press, had the idea to do a “Christmas in July” promotion along with not only people she has published but some others in the writing community as well. If you will go to these links, you can find all kinds of wonderful giveaways, price reductions, and such–all Christmas stories!
    http://happilyeverafterauthors2.blogspot.com/

    http://rebeccajvickery.blogspot.com/

    Check back later on this evening to see if you won the drawing here at P&P, too!
    Cheryl

  12. Hi Stephanie,

    Oh, I agree. Christmas stories are the best! LOL But Christmas is just my favorite time of the year anyhow–which is strange since I love summer so much. I posted links in the replies to Vickie and Laurie for the Christmas in July extravaganza–lots of prizes and good reading at discounted prices. Also, check back here after 8:00 this evening to see if you won the drawing here, and thanks so much for stopping by!
    Cheryl

  13. Hey Kathleen!

    Thanks so much for your kind words, and check out the links I posted above in the previous responses for the Christmas in July prizes and such. I really enjoy writing in both historical and contemporary story lines, both in my short stories and in my novels. Don’t forget to check back after 8:00 this evening to see if you won here at P&P!
    Cheryl

  14. Hi Deb,

    I am with you! I don’t write anything without an HEA, though sometimes you may wonder how it’s ever going to happen. LOL I have another short story coming out this month in a western anthology–there’s no romance to it, just western writers. I’m anxious to see how it goes with that one, as that was a bit of another departure for me, too. The Wild Rose Press has a LOT of stand alone short stories, and even some free reads you can download there. At Victory Tales Press, all the anthologies are connected by a holiday theme, a seasonal theme, etc. Just this past couple of months, I’ve had stories released with them in A HISTORICAL COLLECTION, A 2011 SUMMER COLLECTION(all stories that take place in the summer), and A WESTERN SAGA–which was really a fun one, because we were given a back story and our characters had to be part of the family that had been created–descendants, cousins, etc. You can check all these out at the Victory Tales Press site.

    Thanks so much for coming by and commenting!
    Cheryl

  15. Cheryl, I wrote for a line for Barbour Publishing for a while called Heartsong Presents.
    It is HARD to shift gears to shorter books. I remember writing furiously along on my book, Golden Days, and I hit 35,000 words on a book that is supposed to be 45,000 to 50,000 and they prefer them to be on the shorter side of that range.
    I thought, “I’ve gotta start wrapping this up.” It was shocking.
    HOWEVER, I really liked doing it. Great exercise mentally to shift those gears once in a while.
    Plus, my gosh, I can write 45,000 words in a long, caffeine soaked weekend.

  16. Hi Cheryl! I started out doing short stories and soon discovered I didn’t have the voice for it. To me, a short story is more like a poem. I like the flexibility of a longer story, but I also love novellas.

    Your Hemmingway example is perfect!

  17. Hi Cheryl – Great blog today!! I have a Jimmy Thomas cover on my new release and I think he’s hot, hot, hot. Love the premise to your Scarlet Ribbons novel!! And the cover is fantastic!!

    I enjoy writing short stories, but they are not always easy to do. Developing characters quickly and telling a tale in a minimum amount of words can be challenging.

  18. Hi Mary,
    I’m like you…my gosh, it doesn’t take me any time at all to whip out 45,000 if I have some time to myself…which I DON’T now that the hub is retired. My writing time has been really diminished. But I think that once he gets “in the groove” he’ll find a hobby or something. It is very hard to shift gears, and sometimes those “in between” lengths –55,000-65,000 are the hardest to write. Short stories and longer novels, I can do, but those shorter novels just eat my lunch.
    Cheryl

  19. Hi Vicki,

    One of the things I always include in my novel writing classes is an excercise in writing flash fiction. When I first became aware of flash fiction I thought, “how could anyone write that?” It is very difficult to do! But if forces you to think in terms of getting a point across in a very short amount of words. Most people struggle with that, in my class, and so when they attempt the flash, then the short stories feel pretty darn good. LOL I used to write a lot of poetry when I was younger (most of it pretty awful) but I admire ANYONE who can write poetry or song lyrics and get the point across. That is dang HARD to do! Telling a story in 3 or 4 stanzas is to me, the very hardest writing of all. Thanks for commenting!
    Cheryl

  20. Char,
    I absolutely LOVE Jimmy Thomas covers. LOL I think they are all hot. The story Scarlet Ribbons was actually based on the old folk song of the same title. Harry Belafonte made it popular in the 60’s, and I can never listen to that song without crying. My husband and I used to play and sing professionally, and every time Mom would come to visit us she’d say, “Oh, I know a song that would be good for y’all to do–how about Scarlet Ribbons?” I always told her no, because Gary didn’t know it. Actually, I knew I couldn’t get through it without dissolving into a puddle. LOL It’s not a sad song, but just speaks to the longing of a parent to give their child the simple things they ask for, and the miracle that made it possible for one father.

    Yes, developing characters is not easy in a short amount of time. Making the reader care about the characters while keeping the plot moving is pretty hard to do. But I truly do love good short stories–so many classics that are just wonderful (now that I’m not in high school any more).LOL Thanks so much for your comments!
    Cheryl

  21. I love stories about the Civil War. I will look for all three. I loved Fire Eyes also.

  22. Wow!! Love those covers! I read anything and everything! Cereal boxes, ads, medicine boxes,oh well you get the picture. I will read short stories and anything else. I, too, find that my favorites leave me wanting more. I am very fond of Christmas stories and sometimes perfer them as short stories because of the business of the season but will read them anytime.

  23. Interesting article. I would love to win one of your books since I have yet to read any of them.

  24. Hi Goldie!

    Thanks so much! Did you all get any rain last night? We got some here in OK City–a blessed relief from this heat! I love Civil War stories, too, Goldie–I don’t write a lot of them, becuase to me it’s really hard to provide an HEA. But I do have two short stories that have a Civil War backgroung–HOMECOMING, and another one called JASON’S ANGEL that can be found in the Victory Tales Press anthology A HISTORICAL COLLECTION.

    Check back after 8:00 to see if you might be the winner!
    Cheryl

  25. I love reading both short stories and books. Western romance is my favorite read but I read a little of everything. I am also big into the Civil War romance which started with GWTW. I can’t wait to read these stories they all sound so good.

  26. Hi Connie!

    Thanks so much–I love those covers, too! I’m like that about reading, too–anything and everything. LOL And I, too, will read Christmas stories anytime of the year. My aunt used to play Christmas music all year round. She said it was all too beautiful to just listen to during Christmas! I had never thought of it like that, but it’s true. I will enter you into the drawing, so check back this evening when I post the winners.
    Cheryl

  27. Hi Joye!
    Well, my goodness, I hope I draw your name this evening! LOL We need to get you started on the path of reading these short stories and novels of mine! LOL Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.
    Cheryl

  28. Hi Quilt Lady,

    Oh, how I remember tackling Gone With The Wind when I was in 8th grade–tiny print, lots of description…LOL I was an avid reader though, and loved it. I have loved the western time period ever since I can remember–I think that came from watching all those tv westerns growing up, and the John Wayne movies. Can’t get enough of them! Thanks for stopping by and commenting, and I will enter your name in the drawing.
    Cheryl

  29. I, too, love stories about the Civil War, but stories that I like even better are ones set int he Revolutionary War era…but you don’t see many of those anymore.

  30. hi Cheryl, good luck with the stories! The covers are awesome. I love reading short stories…because they are short! I’ve been writing novellas lately for a series, and 30K or so is a challenge, too. Really gotta decide what’s important and not get verbose. oxox

  31. Kay,
    You know who writes some darn good Revolutionary War stories? Her name is Beth Trissel and she writes for The Wild Rose Press–she does a fantastic job with that era. I bet you’d like her. I love that era too. I guess you could say I’m just a history NUT! LOL
    Cheryl

  32. Hi Tanya,

    Yes, that would be a very hard length for me. I just don’t know if I could do a novella. Like you, I tend to get pretty wordy sometimes, and I can’t see what to cut! LOLLOL You are doing so awesome with your releases for that series, Tanya. More power to you, and congratulations!
    Hugs,
    Cheryl

  33. Hi Cheryl,

    Thank you for sharing your journey in writing with us. Writing is hard work but not impossible and sometimes to way to a published book is taken from the unbeaten path. When setting out to be a writer, well a published writer, it’s easy to think: let’s write a full-length novel, edit, edit, edit, send you baby off into the world and wait to see what happens. Often it’s wait, wait, wait with the happening point non-existent. I am glad you were determined about finding your way and starting small. I enjoy short stories and in anthologies it gives me a chance to try new authors and the stories are filling enough for a long day when I don’t have a lot of time.

    Wishing you lots of success!

  34. I enjoy both short stories & novels… always depend on my mood and reading time frame… sometimes I just want a really good short read to enjoy and others a novel to enjoy for hours…

  35. I have never understood why short stories don’t get the “respect” they deserve. Making something short and sweet is not that easy. Each word must count, saying much more than it usually does. The less is more philosophy would benefit many of us. The Hemingway example you gave speaks volumes. I have seen it before, and everytime I read it, it breaks my heart.

    Thank you for an interesting post.

  36. Hi Na,
    Yes, that first novel, my baby, will need even MORE editing than I’ve done on it. But meanwhile, I’ve written 8 other novels, sold three of those with a 4th under consideration at this time, along with all the short stories. You are absolutely right, that many times people wait and wait and it never happens for them. Starting with the smaller stories helped me build that portfolio to the point that an editor or agent knew I was serious about my writing. It also helped me keep “inspired” along the way!
    Thanks so much for the well wishes. I appreciate you stopping by!
    Cheryl

  37. Hi Colleen,

    I hear you! You know at night, I like to read the shorter stories because I get sleepy when I’m reading. Reading a longer novel, I find I’m re-reading the same page over and over and then thinking, well, my gosh it was hardly worth it–I’ve only read 20 pages! With a short story, I don’t do that. I do think it depends on your frame of mind, for sure.

    Thanks for coming by!
    Cheryl

  38. Pat, I feel the same way about that Hemingway example. Talk about setting your mind to roving and wondering WHAT HAPPENED? An accident at birth? Stillbirth? Was the mother killed while she was pregnant? I mean, it really does make your mind leap. I agree about the respect angle for short stories. I don’t understand it either. I think for one thing, reading in general is not given the respect it deserves in today’s world. We take it for granted. The writers of the classic short stories such as Chekhov, Poe, Maugham, Henry, etc. were well respected because they took their craft seriously and others did, too. It’s not that way in today’s society, I don’t think. And it’s really nothing personal about writers, or short story writers–I just think there is a general lack of respect for most everything in society today. But that’s just my 2 cents’ worth. Thanks so much for your insightful comments.
    Cheryl

  39. I want to thank everyone who dropped by and read my blog on Short Stories vs. Novels today. I enjoyed the comments! OK, ladies, the names I drew were….

    DEB. H. and VICKIE COUTURIER!!! If you will e-mail me at fabkat_edit@yahoo.com with your choice of any of the three short stories featured in today’s blog I will be happy to forward you the pdf!

    Thanks so much for joining me today!

  40. All three of these stories sound great! I look forward to reading them!

    Pat Cochran

  41. Great Pat! I hope you enjoy. Victory Tales Press and The Wild Rose Press both have a lot of great short stories, many of them at The Wild Rose Press are free reads. I included the links to both places in my comments to a couple of the ladies previously, if you are interested in checking them out, as well as the Christmas in July promotion with Victory Tales Press. Lots of great reading!
    Cheryl

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