Monday, 20 March 2017

The long and the short of it by Sue Russell

(This image is totally irrelevant, but cheering, I thought.)

I've been thinking about the relative merits of different lengths of fictional pieces. My own are all novel-length, though not door-stoppers, and I've found this form most congenial. This may be partly because I enjoy reading longer works, relishing the opportunity to immerse myself in fictional settings and get to know characters at a deep level. However, I have a body of short stories, written over a number of years in response to assignments set by one of the writing critique groups to which I belong, and I have reason to be thankful for them.  They kept me going at a time when the creative wells were dry and I was writing little besides - if nothing else they provided a necessary discipline. They also show most vividly how I've developed as a writer; many showcase flaws I shudder at and would cringingly avoid today. Sometimes I churn out a short piece of fiction out of sheer shame that I contribute so little to the group except for trying to shake down the idiosyncratic punctuation of some of the members.
Writing short fiction that works requires skill of a high order - possibly the shorter, the higher, and I am full of admiration for those who can pull it off. Poetry is another form which demands honing and distillation and very precise word- and rhythm-choice, whereas my efforts are mostly maudlin meanderings.
I have found, however, despite my fondness for the longer story, that my novels are getting progressively shorter, and I ask myself why that is. I have also found another reason to be thankful for my little hoard of short stories. I have been wondering about my next project (novel no. 6 is done and, I hope, will be published later this year) - assuming that I should be going on rather than giving it all up and becoming a snake-charmer. It was one of my very short pieces, a mere 500 words, from several years ago that sparked what might become novel no. 7. Reading this story I realised another benefit of brevity: one can merely allude, and that cuts down the need for lengthy research!
I would be interested to hear about the preferred forms of readers of this blog: long or short, flash fiction, novella, series, the limerick... the possibilities are many.

Sue Russell writes as S.L.Russell and has five contemporary novels out there written from a Christian viewpoint. They can all be seen, sampled, purchased in paperback or kindle, and reviewed on Amazon and other outlets. I live in hope. A sixth novel should make its appearance in the autumn.


  1. I love writing short stories too. It's actually challenging for me to write a whole novel. A novella was hard enough. I'm always worried about saying 'too much'. Looking forward to your next novel Sue! Thought provoking post ☺️

  2. Thanks, Deborah. No.6 should be out in the world around September, I hope.