The English writer Kay Sexton wrote in a July 16th post on her blog, that “If you want to be a novelist … learn to write short stories.”
I don’t agree. I believe they are two distinctly different forms and one has nothing to do with the other. Not everyone can write a good short story. It’s an art all it’s own. And if you can’t write one that doesn’t mean you can’t write a novel.
Sexton says: “Yes, there are writers who manage to get a book published without working through the apprentice stages of short fiction, but believe me, they are rare.”
This can’t be true. Naturally no one comes to mind at this moment so I shouldn’t be writing this now. But I’ve started and maybe readers of this post can help me out.
I can talk about me, of course. I’d written and published many novels before I tried a short story. I’ve published two. Both in crime anthologies. They were anomalies for me. I find the form incredibly difficult. Especially a mystery short.
I don’t enjoy reading shorts. Sorry. I don’t want to take the time away from reading a novel which I feel will be more rewarding. But there are always exceptions. I’ve read and loved the Raymond Carver stories. Also Amy Bloom. A few Anne Beattie years ago.
I guess if you don’t like reading something you probably don’t want to write it. I don’t read science fiction, fantasy or westerns and I’d never think of trying to write one of those.
So, Kay, I don’t think you have to write short stories to become a good novelist anymore than I believe you must write an outline before you write a novel. I think it’s different for everyone.
Writing short stories won’t hurt you as a novelist, but it isn’t a requirement.