Writing about writing: easier than actually writing! But I also think it is helpful to sort out the mess of instincts and emotions that respond when I press the WRITING button in my brain. So. Here we are.
1. A writer friend asked me a few weeks ago how I decide to make shorts stories vs novels out of my ideas. There was a lot more to the question/context, but this is the easiest part to discuss! XD
a. Some of it depends on how big the idea is. Orson Scott Card (wait, stop running) put forth the MICE (Milieu, Idea, Character, Event) Quotient of story design in his Characters and Viewpoint. (FYI, Karen Woodward
has a succinct summary of this, and Writing Excuses
also had a nice podcast on it)
I find this useful, not only as a springboard, but as a gauge. I think Writing Excuses laid it out better than I'm doing here, but basically, the more factors are involved, the longer the story should be.
In my current still-shopping-it-around short story, I was very clear to myself that it was an Idea Story and did not wish to dilute it with the other factors. If I had wanted, though, I think I could easily have expanded it. I have, like, 100 discarded drafts where the central idea veered off into some other direction; the central idea is one that's pretty easily adaptable.
In my WIP novel, there are multiple SFnal ideas that play into the plot, multiple characters who have tasks that need to be performed, something gone wrong that needs to be put right ... so that was obvious from the start that it needed to be a novel.
b. Another part of the answer came when I looked at how different the focuses (foci?) of my shorts/novels are. My shorts tend to be either intensely bittersweet/sad (A Study in Bronze), or satire (And Now ...). They tend to focus on my own obsessions (death! memory! legacy! sacrifice!) My novels tend to be thriller plots done up with comedy and somewhat fanficcy tropes (snark! hijinks! property damage! NC-17 farce!). I'd name them but STILL IN THE WORKS. But I mean. My current favorite is 90% NC-17 farce, 10% heartbreak, 100% happi endo. Whereas my current favorite short story is 1000% ~tragic love~.
Then again, I have a happy-end-ish novella in revision, and I never thought I would. So never say never, eh? (And that one was totally a milieu story. I mean. It was one long extended love song to the study of electricity and magnetism through the lens of urban fantasy. And the human elements that make up the circuits.)
In sum: short stories are where I go for catharsis. Novels are where I go to entertain. Who says you can't have it both ways?
2. I currently have a novel WIP, am shopping one short around, and am revising one novella. Lacking: a short story WIP, and apparently I totally get severe Empty Nester Syndrome with my stories XD So I went rummaging in my Evernote folder of "fiction ideas" and then ended up spending an embarrassing amount of time this week very down because I couldn't think of a way to massage any of my ideas into workable narratives. This is, I have to say, a problem I have not had before.
The hopeful part of me says it's because I've progressed enough as a writer to see the obstacles before I ever start, whereas five years ago I would have blithely written on, finished a draft, and THEN had it eviscerated in a workshop. I have now cut out that particular middleman, is all.
The realistic part of me says I've plucked all the low-hanging fruit and it's time to work harder XD
After a week of banging my head against the wall, I think I've managed to figure out how to write one idea--as a flashfic, as it turns out, which I very rarely write, but one of those was
my first sale, so hey. And the other, well, I haven't figured out the solution but I've figured out at least one question to ask to get me on the path. So there is always hope! Which is a sentiment as good as any to end this post on.