Apnea vs. breaststroke


So, with Harbinger of the Storm safely off to my crit group, I’m slowly getting back into short story mode. And, wow, I missed that.

It’s not that I don’t like writing novels, but novel mode is a little bit like apnea. See, I can’t multitask. I’ve tried. I can’t properly write a novel and a short story. I can research a novel and write shorts. I can revise a novel and write shorts. But drafting is exclusive.

So, when I start a novel draft, I take a deep breath, and plunge in–and I try not to come back up again too many times, because it’s really hard to get back into the swing of things once I’ve stopped for a long while. When I’m writing a novel, I have to keep going–keep writing stuff, even if it’s only a little every day. I waste time surf on the internet and I keep sending emails, of course, but it’s a lot like survival mode: I’m doing it it to unwind and for a change of setting, and not for anything constructive. I do end up most evenings feeling a little pummeled–and always guilty for not writing enough words for the day.

There’s the guilt, and the fatigue–but most of all it’s the isolation. Sure, I can talk with writer friends, but there’s not as much motivation (I hate sharing ongoing drafts for crits, and given the temptation to shut like a clam and write, little ol’introvert me will almost always prefer the non-social, lazy approach). I’d blog, but then I’d feel guilty taking away words from the novel (just as I feel guilty blogging while in drafting a short story). I feel a lot like the proverbial lonely writer at his typewriter.

By contrast, short stories are a lot like breaststroke. Likewise, I plunge in and don’t stop until I have a first draft–but it’s much shorter to actually have a draft (anything from two days to a month). When I’m done, I hand the draft in, and I can have crits back in a few days to a ew weeks. I’m free to take up crits from friends, to ask for news, to follow stuff on forums and form coherent answers (instead of the “arg, too tired” of novel-writing). And I can submit the short story in a matter of weeks (ok, in real life it’s more like a month, two months. But you get the idea). And then it’s rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat… Much shorter downtimes (well, much shorter everything, really).

And now I’m back into social mode :=) Yay.

What about you? How do you handle short stories and novels? Do you have different processes? Can you do both at once?


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