Friday, January 6, 2012

Having A Writing Affair

When I was studying fiction writing with Mary Morris, she said, “Writing a short story is like having an affair. Writing a novel is a marriage.”

It’s an interesting analogy. A novel is a huge commitment is terms of time—at least, a year. (Unless you’re a speed writer—if you are, I hate you. Sorry. It’s nothing personal.) Writing a novel is a promise to be there and deal with the good, the bad, and downright ugly. It’s reaching down inside yourself even when you want to have a pity party because you’re blocked/tired/afraid/hate your characters/etc. On the other hand, the pay-off is amazing. To complete a novel is a feat in itself. Most people who begin never finish because it’s really hard to organize/balance plots, subplots, character development, themes, etc. It can be demoralizing and exhausting.

That’s where the short story comes in. The short is all the passion of writing and editing in a hot and heavy couple of months. (Okay, I have a couple of shorts that I’ve been working on for years, but mostly they don’t take too long.) You get to love ’em and leave ’em. “It was nice while it lasted, baby.”

When I finished an edit of the Screwing Up Time sequel and gave it to my first beta, I decided I needed a writing affair. So I’m writing a short story that occurs between books one and two of the series. And I’m having a great time. I needed this writing fling. When it’s over, I’m getting back to the novel marriage.

So how many of you writers out there have had a writing fling? It might be just what you need to get you through the novel you’re working on.


  1. My flings tend to be novels in and of themselves. O_O Because I am crazy. Honestly, I write much better if I'm writing two things at once--I can bounce back and forth between them. When one of them makes me want to pull my hair out, I switch to the other one. Most of my novels take at least a year to write, but I've several I've written in less time. Twice for NaNoWriMo (though of course, editing took a while!) and one that I wrote last year, which took me three months. It was something I desperately needed, though--it was my equivalent of a short story. I'd been writing a really intense story for a couple of years, and my brain needed a break, so it spun out this ridiculous novel. I know I need breaks from the exhausting, drawn out writing.

  2. LOL, I love this analogy! Unfortunately, I can't call short stories "flings" because I can't wrap my head around them. Their structure and pacing alludes me. :P

    Instead, I do little drabbles and side scenes sometimes for fun.

  3. I had a fling. Wrote a short story and sold it to a magazine for eight hundred bucks. It felt soooooo good to get that kind of positive (and immediate) feedback on my writing. Gave me exactly the encouragement I needed to keep working on my novel.

  4. Susan,

    Congrats!! That's wonderful news. You go, girl!

  5. Great analogy with the fling & marriage, except that forunately an affair with a short story won't backfire on the marriage with the novel and cause a divorce! ;)