Wednesday, September 06, 2006

David Long on Stories and Novels

David Long on the difference between writing stories and novels:

Stories are tough. It's not that writing a short story is harder than writing a novel, but writing a book of short stories is really difficult—for me, at least. My last collection, Blue Spruce, represented seven years of work. A book of stories is all beginnings and endings, each of which has to be just right. Whereas a novel is mostly middle. If you get stuck while writing a story, then you're just stuck. But in a novel you can go and work on a different place.

[Note: For those participating in Carl V.’s Autumn Reading Challenge, David Long’s new novel, The Inhabited World, sounds like a good prospect—a most unconventional ghost story. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m sufficiently intrigued by what I’ve read about it to add it to my list.]


Anonymous said...

I hadn't thought of that, of how you have more room to move in a novel and so if you're stuck in one place you can still work on another. I suppose though if a short story isn't working right then, you could go on to another. But if your problem is that beginnings aren't going well, or endings, you might end up with a book of short story middles... Hmmm. Your posts always, always make me want to open a book and see if I can find the thing you're talking about in action. It's time to pull out The Dead (in the middle of The Three Musketeers) and think about beginnings and endings.

Kate S. said...

That passage from Long's interview really spoke to me because the short story is my primary form and I have a lot of trouble with endings. Also, I'm trying to make the transition from working on short stories to working on a novel, and frankly finding grappling with the structure of an extended work of fiction to be quite daunting. So it's encouraging to think that, at least in some respects, a novel could be easier! In the end, however, I think the distinction is similar to that between writing a poem and writing a novel discussed in connection with the Highsmith quotation that I posted below. Each literary form has unique pleasures and unique trials associated with it.