Form, Long vs. Short

by Big World Writing Club Moderator A2

Here we are, almost mid-way through the year, and I’m already thinking ahead to NaNoWriMo; or rather, I’m wondering if I’m going to do it at all this year.

For NaNo 2011, I wrote a series of connected short stories instead of a novel. (I’ve already talked about my very, very slow process. And at the risk of making all of my posts sound very angsty and tortured – I am neither of those things – I’m going to leave that there.) I’m finally getting two of the stories to where I want to, and I’ve just accepted that my process is going to be much slower than I anticipated. Maybe my focus for NaNoWriMo 2012 will be different from that of 2011. Stay tuned for more on that front. Big World is going to be busy this summer, so I’m sure all sorts of ideas will bubble up.

Anyway, this post is about short stories, and my growing appreciation for and interest in them. Recently, I returned to an article from 2008 featuring author Jhumpa Lahiri about misconceptions about short stories, called “Why size doesn’t matter in fiction.” Lahiri says:

In the wider world, there is a terrible hierarchy that people have between stories and novels. There is a sense that bigger is better and smaller is a diminutive, lesser thing. It’s maddening to me because I don’t understand it. I just think that if one is a serious reader of fiction, that argument doesn’t really hold very much water because some of the most remarkable works of fiction are short.

And as one of my favorite writers says, “But the short story deserves better than to be your practice date.”

As I approach June and revisit my writing goals for the year,  I find that they are shifting a little bit. My goal now is simple: I would like to spend some time with short stories: reading more of them and writing more of them without feeling as though I need to expand all of them into sweeping novels.

First step: add Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies to my to-read list. School’s in session.

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