18 Short Story Writers On Why They Decided To Write A Novel

An incredible group of authors discuss why they chose to go long.

It happens all the time: A writer publishes a wonderful collection of short stories and then moves into the heady world of the novel. But why did he or she decide to go long? Was there pressure to take on a novel? Did the new story dictate a higher word count? Did the writer simply feel inspired to shift focus?

I spoke with 18 authors — already successful in working small — about their decision to write a novel. Some are just now first-time novelists (or will have their first novels published soon), while others made the transition early in their careers. With each, I asked this one question: What made you take the leap from short fiction/essays to the novel?

1. Maya Lang

Renata Steiner / Via mayalang.com

Maya Lang was a finalist for Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers and was awarded the 2012 Bread Loaf-Rona Jaffe Foundation Scholarship in Fiction. Her debut novel, The Sixteenth of June, longlisted for the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan Prize, is out now from Scribner.

When the idea for my novel first came to me, I made the foolish assumption that I should wet my feet by writing a few short stories first. In hindsight, this is like deciding to ski jump because you’re daunted by the thought of some afternoon snowshoeing. Did I learn lessons while trying my hand at the short form? Absolutely. But I’ve come to feel that stories are much harder than novels. The very quality that makes the story seem less intimidating is what makes it so difficult: its compactness. There’s a leisurely quality to working on a novel, a meandering sense of room that’s quite freeing. You can work with your characters over time, get to know them, arrive at your destination in your own way. If I have learned anything, it is to write what is in your heart, what tugs at your thoughts, not what you think you “should.”

2. Courtney Maum

Courtney Maum is the voice behind the “Celebrity Book Review” humor column over at Electric Literature and also writes an advice column for Tin House. Her debut novel, I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, was released in June from Touchstone.

Quite simply, because I’m not very good at short stories. While I manage to write compact work for the web, I lack the elegance and precision it takes to be a dynamite short story writer. It’s the same for me in the kitchen — I love to cook unwieldy, savory dishes — adding a little bit of this, a little bit of that, repurposing leftovers I’ve had in the fridge for days — but you don’t want me near the sweet stuff. Baking requires the same kind of exactitude that short story writing does, and I am too impatient and mercurial to bake.

3. Lydia Davis

Luke Macgregor / Reuters

Lydia Davis is well known for her (often) very short fiction, which has been collected in seven volumes, including 2014’s Can’t and Won’t, and has earned her several awards, most notably the 2013 Man Booker International Prize. Davis is also the author of one novel, 1994’s The End of the Story. Later this summer will see the release of Davis’ adaptation of Alfred Ollivant’s Bob, Son of Battle: The Last Gray Dog of Kenmuir, from NYR Children’s Collection.

My more comfortable form is definitely the short and very short story. But in this case, there was quite a large story to tell, and there were many passages of writing that I wanted to incorporate in it. I began to realize that a story, even quite a long short story, would not have enough room in it. So I accepted the fact that this would have to be a novel, just to accommodate what I wanted to put in it — both the plot itself and also the passages in which I digressed to comment or describe. And writing it, particularly organizing it, was not easy.

So I did not, first, say to myself that I wanted to write a novel and then, second, look for a subject. The subject was there first, and it required a novel.

4. Charles Baxter

Charles Baxter is a National Book Award Finalist who has published five story collections and five novels, in addition to essays and poetry. His first new collection of stories in 15 years, There’s Something I Want You to Do, will be released in February 2015 by Pantheon.

Many of us began by writing novels that were formless and unpublishable. I wrote three or four of them. Then I started writing short stories in order to learn how to manage form — really, how to write fiction. Writing short stories taught me how to write plausible fiction. I also developed a love for the form of the short story that I’ve never really lost. Writers transition from the short story form to the novel for many reasons, including the prestige of the novel form, the commercial value of novels (they sell better), and because of the novel’s capacious form, which permits the elaboration of a social or personal history.

5. Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay’s essays and stories have been featured in a variety of places: Salon, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, Virginia Quarterly Review, Best American Short Stories, and the list goes on. Her first collection, Ayiti, is a blend of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Her debut novel, An Untamed State, was published in May from Grove Atlantic, and her debut collection of essays, Bad Feminist, was just released by Harper Perennial.

I took the leap from short stories to writing a novel because I wanted to see if and how I could tell a story in a more sprawling and expansive way. I wanted to immerse myself in a character’s world, without constraint, and then shape what I learned from that immersion into a novel worth writing and reading. It was one of the most instructive and satisfying experiences of my writing career and I cannot wait to do it again.

6. Rebecca Makkai

Rebecca Makkai’s short fiction has been featured in Harper’s, Tin House, Ploughshares, and New England Review, and was anthologized in Best American Short Stories for four consecutive years (2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008). Her debut novel, The Borrower, was released in 2011. Her new novel, The Hundred-Year House, has just been published by Viking/Penguin.

This is the question I’m asked the most often about my fiction, and the answer is: I did not take a leap. I’ve been working intently on both since just about day one, with the important difference that my short stories were ready to publish sooner than my first novel (which took me 10 years). What concerns me about the question is the implication that short fiction is something to be left behind, something from which to move on. A lot of writers treat it that way — and when they do, I wonder what parts of their souls they’ve left behind. Or I wonder if maybe, all along, they were just going through the motions with the stories — if they founded their careers on something they didn’t truly love. Both possibilities make me sad. It’s not as if painters graduate from miniatures to murals… and I don’t think there’s anything about the human psyche that requires us to tell longer, more complex stories as we age. I’ll be telling both short and long stories to the day I die, regardless or whether anyone’s listening.

7. Laura van den Berg

Laura van den Berg has published two story collections, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us and The Isle of Youth, as well as a chapbook of short-shorts, There Will Be No More Good Nights Without Good Nights. Both of her collections were shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Her debut novel, Find Me, is scheduled for release in February 2015 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

It was a question of scope. Early on the material I found myself working with — an epidemic that destroys memory, the narrator’s search for the mother who abandoned her as a child — seemed like more than a shorty story could hold. When I got the idea of trying to write the book in two parts — part 1 of Find Me takes place in hospital in rural Kansas; part 2 is set on the open road — that structure definitely suggested I was moving into novel territory. So it was more a case of the form responding to the demands of the material, of the story, than me consciously setting out to write a novel.

8. Vanessa Blakeslee

Vanessa Blakeslee’s debut story collection, Train Shots, won the 2014 IPPY Gold Medal for Short Fiction and was longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Her first novel will be published by Curbside Splendor in Fall 2015.

The decision to write my first novel was two-fold, and arose rather naturally if not inevitably. Namely, I had written a short story during my first semester in the Vermont College MFA in Writing program that just kept growing fatter and unwieldy. The story took place against a heated socio-political backdrop — Colombia, South America, in the late 1990s — which contained plenty of intriguing material to mine, the characters lively and compelling. My adviser and I both sensed that if I were interested enough in the material, that the conflict might have enough thrust to take on a wider scope. I set the draft aside for another couple years, until I felt I was not only ready to dive into it, but to explore the longer form. You have to be as invested and curious in the form as you are in the content, and even more so with a novel because the process is long and rather tedious. The more ways you can stay inspired, energized, and focused, the better.

Is there pressure to write a novel? You hear that from agents and writers all the time. “Just write a novel” or “publishers don’t want short story collections.” Meanwhile, we’ve entered an era where the rules are out the door. It’s increasingly difficult to publish literary fiction with the big houses who are more risk-averse than ever and looking to appeal to the widest possible audience. As a result, more avant-garde fiction will increasingly be forthcoming from the more nimble, independent presses. These are the presses I’m interested in working with, because they operate in the tradition of the American entrepreneur — with a tenacious fire in the belly, tight budgets, and a focus on the book as a work of art foremost, rather than just a commodity. Such publishers won’t pressure you to write novels over stories because they’re going to put all their energy behind you either way. They want to make as much profit as possible, of course, but that doesn’t obscure their mission — to publish lasting and meaningful literature, to nourish and preserve culture. So write what you want, be true to your stories in whatever form they take, and then market the hell out of your book. You’ll have to do that anyway, no matter what size the publisher.

9. Bret Anthony Johnston

Bret Anthony Johnston’s debut novel, Remember Me Like This, was released in May from Random House and is a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection. He is also the author of the collection, Corpus Christi, which was named a Best Book of the Year by The Independent (London) and The Irish Times in 2005.

A lot of short story writers sell their first novels for a) the money and b) to ensure that the collection of stories gets published with a two-book deal. You could make the case that this is a mercenary approach from both sides, but if the result is more and better books of fiction being published, the argument is moot.

The stories that I wrote before I started writing the novel were getting longer and more complex in the ways they moved through time and perspective, so when I came up with an idea that was going to explode those things even more, I knew I’d have to move to the longer form. It didn’t feel like a graduation, however. I don’t in any way buy into the widely held belief that writers cut their teeth on stories and then, when they’re ready, go after the novel. If anything, the opposite is true. I think novels are easier to write than great stories, and in many ways, writing my novel has made me a better story writer.

10. Jennine Capó Crucet

Andrew Vippolis / Via jennine-crucet.squarespace.com

Jennine Capó Crucet won the 2009 Iowa Short Fiction Award and the 2010 John Gardner Award for her collection, How to Leave Hialeah. Her debut novel, Make Your Home Among Strangers, is forthcoming from St. Martin’s Press in 2015.

This might sound weird, but the major elements of the story — the narrator’s voice, the year in her life that coincides with this huge immigration fiasco at home, the central themes and struggles and history the book tackles — all sort of crashed into me one afternoon at work (though I’d been immersed, thanks to that work, in the world the novel inhabits for months at that point, so maybe it was more of a crest than a crash). And based on what I realized I’d have to take on when it came to the narrator’s family and her community and her experiences as a first-generation college student whose own struggles get amplified by those of a fictionalized Elian Gonzalez, I understood implicitly that it was too vast to be a short story. The voice felt so urgent that within a couple weeks from that afternoon, even while working a full-time job and Los Angeles traffic getting me home late and exhausted, I had 80 pages on my hands. I didn’t know exactly what would happen story- or plot-wise, but I did know it was not a short story, and I knew that I had to write it because I (also weirdly) felt that I was the only person who could write this book. I ended up quitting my job and moving back to Florida partly because of this novel, which was scary — and certainly something a short story never demanded of me. I have a (weird!) feeling that the next novel will demand a similar upheaval.

11. Julia Elliott

Julia Elliott’s first collection of stories, The Wilds, will be released this October from Tin House Books. Tin House will also be releasing Elliott’s first novel, The New and Improved Romie Futch, next year.

When I wrote The New and Improved Romie Futch, I was supposed to be working on another project, a research-intensive, grant-funded novel about a primatologist studying Hamadryas baboons. During the summer of 2011, I itched to start writing, though I was still in research mode, hanging out with smelly zoo monkeys all day and reading about their social antics. I dug up an abandoned short story about a taxidermist who serves as a research subject in an experiment conducted by the “Center for Cybernetic Neuroscience” in Atlanta. After scientists download complex humanities disciplines into his brain, the enhanced taxidermist returns to his hometown to confront his failed marriage. The short story, though riddled with indulgent tangents, made me laugh, so I decided to rewrite it. After composing the first paragraph, I had a gut feeling that the idea was too sprawling to tackle in short-story form, so I ran with it all summer, and the guilt over neglecting my baboon novel intensified the momentum of the project. As a short story writer who had yet to pull off a viable novel, I finally found myself in the thick of a book that actually had a path — the original short story functioned as a practical blueprint, but it also served as a fetish object, sustaining my confidence and emotional commitment to the task.

12. Jess Row

Sarah Shatz / Via jessrow.com

Jess Row’s debut novel, Your Face in Mine, is now available from Riverhead. He is also the author of two story collections, The Train to Lo Wu and Nobody Ever Gets Lost, and a story chapbook, The True Catastrophe. His stories have been anthologized in Best American Short Stories three times, most recently in 2011.

When I first started writing fiction seriously, in my late teens, I was entirely focused on the short story. My first workshop teacher was Lee K. Abbott, who wrote (and writes) only short stories — and the title of his selected stories, All Things, All At Once, pretty much sums his attitude toward the form, which is that the short story is capacious enough to accomplish nearly anything. Not that Lee discouraged us from writing novels — he read the first page of William Styron’s Lie Down In Darkness out loud in class as a way of dramatizing how he thought a novel should begin — but the power of his personality, and writing, was such that I came to believe in the short story as a kind of higher calling, a perfectible art form, like the short lyric poem, which is something the novel almost cannot be. Novels that are too perfect, too fastidious, are usually also kind of a drag. But perfect short stories, like James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues,” Fitzgerald’s “Babylon Revisited,” Frederick Busch’s “Ralph the Duck,” Susan Sontag’s “The Way We Live Now,” Julio Cortazar’s “Blow-Up” — those are luminous things.

This belief in the short story persisted for me more or less all the way through graduate school: In my time as an MFA student I wrote only short stories, and no one suggested I should even try thinking about writing a novel. It was only after I graduated, got my first agent, and started to think about book contracts, that I realized I more or less had to try to write one. It wasn’t that I was anti-novel; at the time I was completely in thrall to novelists like Michael Ondaatje, Peter Matthiessen, J.M. Coetzee, Paul Bowles, and Nadine Gordimer. I just had never received a word of instruction or meaningful advice about how to begin. So I began writing a kind of hodgepodge, shape-shifting, very solemn novel, hoping it would gel. And it never did. I sold it (based on a description) as part of a two-book contract, but finally had to abandon it. It’s finished, and I may come back to it someday — I hope so — but mostly it was a painful, seven-year learning experience of What Not To Do in a first novel.

This is part of why, with my own MFA students, I always insist that they at least think through the concept of a novel, if not actually producing more than a handful of pages. Because the truth is that even if you never publish one, trying to write a novel is a necessary exercise for a fiction writer.

My first-to-be-published novel, Your Face in Mine, began as a wild idea — what if there was a kind of surgery, called “racial reassignment surgery,” that functioned like gender reassignment surgery, allowing people to change races at will? I wrote a first chapter and thought nothing would ever come of it: too speculative, too risky and problematic. Then, fortunately, I switched agents, and my new agent, Denise Shannon, said, “You have to write this book.” That lit the fire under me, and I wrote the first hundred pages in two months. It just burned out of me. Intentionally, I made the structure as simple as possible — chronological chapters, with a few flashbacks and meditative interludes. I wanted the book to carry the reader very fast, with a kind of hypnotic intensity. I wanted it to be fun to read. Sometimes it’s necessary, as a literary writer, to put down your pretensions and say to the reader, “Sit back and let me tell you a story.” Once you have a story underway, all kinds of manic, unexpected things can happen.

13. Ondjaki

Ondjaki has published twenty books, which include novels, short story collections, children’s books, and poetry. The recipient of the 2013 José Saramago Prize for Literature, his novel, Granma Nineteen and the Soviet’s Secret, was recently translated into English and published by Biblioasis.

I wouldn’t know for sure. I keep doing both, and stories for kids, too. And between all, short stories are still the one I like the most. I have ideas for short stories, but it’s very hard to finish a novel. I would say that I can decide when to write poems or short stories, but novels, they decide for me. They have to convince me. So, now, I only write a novel if I have to, if the subject convinces me that it has to be a novel. Otherwise, I really avoid it.

14. Amelia Gray

Amelia Gray is the author of two short story collections, AM/PM and Museum of the Weird, which won the Ronald Sukenick/American Book Innovation Fiction Prize. Her first novel, THREATS, was released by FSG Originals in 2012 and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

Short stories for me are a lens on one corner of the world and novels are the world itself. I wanted to know how it would feel to examine character, scene, and language in that expansive way. I was also interested to find how the work changed as I did — how my life and mind were pulled into my characters.

I mean, picture all the things that happened in your own life in the past two or three years and think about how those events would twist and manifest if you had to sit down and describe someone else’s life. The short story for me is so much more of a set piece — even though I’m doing the same work of exploring the scene and turning things over and letting it surprise me, there’s less of this real life rouletting around the edges because the thing is usually done sooner.

15. Ted Thompson

Carrie McClean / Via tedthompson.net

Ted Thompson has published short stories in Best New American Voices, Tin House, and American Short Fiction. His first novel, The Land of Steady Habits, came out in March from Little, Brown and Company.

I spent several years trying to make the narrative that eventually became The Land of Steady Habits work as a short story, and for me it wasn’t until I gave up on trying to make it work in that form (that is to say one that’s governed largely by compression) that I eventually found my way to writing a novel. I do think every story has its form and it took me a long time to find this one. Part of that is because I’d always thought of novels, especially first novels, as having to be Important and something I saved for only my biggest and most ambitious (read: hopelessly grandiose) ideas. My process with this book for much of its early life was one of never admitting I was writing a novel. I called it a “long story” or a “novella” or, in grad school, after it had outgrown all of those categories, a “novelito,” which was a form I claimed to have invented that was longer than a novella and shorter than a novel. So often the process for me is not about making a big decision to write this way or that, but trying to stay open to the story long enough to find its proper expression. Most of that is, in a way, tricking myself into writing a novel, which I feel like is a common experience. Nobody wants to believe that they’re going to be banging their head against a project for eight years and untold drafts. So instead so often I’m saying, “Just over that hill,” “Almost there,” “This one should be done by Christmas.” That last mantra is the one I’m using now, and I’m feeling pretty good about it. But please don’t check in with me in December.

16. Lindsay Hunter

Lindsay Hunter has published two story collections, Daddy’s and Don’t Kiss Me. Don’t Kiss Me was an Amazon Book of the Year in 2013. Farrar, Straus and Giroux will release her first novel, Ugly Girls, this November.

I took the leap from short fiction to the novel because…well, because I actually started out working in longform in grad school. I was working on a really terrible novel for like three years, and I always wanted to finish it, or finish any novel, but I couldn’t stop spinning my wheels. You know? Like my “novel” was actually “the same scene over and over and over and over.” I needed to get out of my head. After grad school, I started a flash-fiction reading series, Quickies!, with my friend Mary Hamilton, in large part because we wanted to read out more, and we knew if we had our own series we’d be reading out at least once a month. And we chose flash fiction (you had to read a complete story, no excerpts and no poetry, in five minutes or less) because we were tired of watching writers drone on and on for 45 minutes with little regard for their audience. So! That meant I had to start writing flash pieces. And man, what a world it opened up to me. That kind of constraint really forces you to choose wisely when it comes to language, character, story. It got me out of my head. I wrote so many that soon I had a collection (Daddy’s) to show for it, and soon after that I had another collection (Don’t Kiss Me). And then I started getting sick of myself. I was hearing from publishers in New York that they’d be interesting in looking at a novel, if I had one. I was feeling torn between my allegiance to flash and my yearning to Finish A Fucking Novel. And I didn’t want to fall into the trap of feeling like I HAD to finish a novel, you know? So often a short story writer is asked “Are you working on a novel?” Like the short stories are just kid stuff. Practice. Like you’re in the minors just waiting to be called up. Which is just horseshit. They’re such different experiences for the reader AND the writer, and those experiences are so critically important to sustain. How often do I think of “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Literally every day. How often do I think of Cruddy? Literally every day. Both are hugely important to me. So I had all of these warring factions of thought in my head about writing a novel, and then finally I just asked myself, “Is this something you want to do?” And the answer was YES. A resounding HELL YES. And that’s how I started working on Ugly Girls.

17. Stephen Graham Jones

Stephen Graham Jones is the author of 15 novels, five collections, and over 200 stories. He is the recipient of the Texas Institute of Letters Jesse Jones Award for Fiction and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Literature. His newest story collection, After the People Lights Have Gone Off, is scheduled for release this fall from Dark House Press.

Glory, I guess. Which isn’t to say we don’t celebrate short story writers — Carver, Wolff, Munro — and not at all to say either form’s superior. Just that, fiction writers tend to be megalomaniacs, and crazy-jealous besides. Why just stake your claim on 30 minutes of a reader’s time? Why not just steal their whole brain for 10 days, and maybe even turn them into your minion?

However, this could just be conditioning too. From two places, and one of those places is a person: James Joyce. He hit us with Dubliners first, and then, as we all tend to see it, he “graduated” to the “mature” form of the novel. As if he’d just been sketching shapes during commercial breaks of Three’s Company, but now it was time to turn off the television and do some pointillism, do something “timeless” and enduring. The other way we get conditioned into buying into this model is the fact that writing is taught in classrooms, in semesters, by people. As opposed to the world, forever, by life. Just the format of the workshop, that we actually need to get stuff done, that kind of insists on the short story form. It’s really hard to keep 10 people’s ongoing novels in your head, while trying to write your own. A handful of stories a week, though, sure.

But the short story, it’s not a step on the way to becoming a novelist. Like John Barth says, some writers are sprinters, some are distance. But there’s all this pressure. You come out of your MFA program with a cogent clutch of stories, trying to get an agent interested, and she or he admits these are quality, sure, but this agent actually needs something the publisher can make money on. So you get kind of bullied by the market into writing a novel. And this makes me so sad. I see so, so many novels written by people who are obviously short story writers. What they end up doing, it’s going the full distance, covering three hundred pages or so, but they do it by just writing five or six long stories, and weaving them together, making them interdependent. Occasionally you get some magic from that tactic — Love Medicine, say — but more often than not the product lacks focus. It’s a good showcase of potential, sure. But sustaining a narrative, it’s not about covering the requisite pages. It’s about rigging the drama such that we’ve got no choice but to turn the page.

Still, the market’s the market: You can cash some good checks writing stories, and get good attention, maybe pull a decent gig or two, but even if you write “Bloodchild” or “Lawns,” those aren’t going to generate enough royalties for you to buy groceries on a regular basis, even if the movies come sniffing around. Those stories’ll open some doors, but the people opening those doors, they’re expecting you to be holding a novel manuscript in your arms. What really interests me, though, are those stories like “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” or “A & P” or “They’re Made Out of Meat,” that served not so much as a calling card for a writer, but almost as a foundation for a career — as a novelist and short story writer both. That’s rare. It’s also rare for a collection to be that foundation, but, I mean, Sherman Alexie did it. Joe Hill did it. Why can’t we all, right?

Anyway, the whole “starting with stories, ending with novels” thing, it’s probably too ingrained in the industry and the psyche to change it. Though I do wish people would stop seeing a hot story from some upstart, and saying to themselves that’s just lucky, let’s see what they can do with the novel. We don’t put poets under this kind of pressure, to go from lyric to epic. Maybe we should treat short story writers more like bands and artists we hear on the radio, with this week’s top-of-the-charts song: If they do 50 more of those, they’re maybe somebody to go all Beatles-crazy for. If not, if they’re just a flash in the pan, then thank them for whatever new DNA they’re injecting into the medium, and change the station when the song’s through. However, this imperative, it doesn’t hold for film, does it? With film, the short film, that is practice for the show, it seems. It’s just how that industry’s built, as near as I can tell. Fiction’s different, though. Short stories and novels, they’re different as well, and they often take different people to write them. If only we could, as a readership, as an audience, remember that, and allow short story writers to be short story writers, novelists to be novelists, and stop pressuring one to be the other. It’d clean up the shelves some.

18. Kevin Wilson

Kevin Wilson is the author of the novel The Family Fang, which was selected by Barnes and Noble and Amazon as one of the best books of 2011. He is also the writer of the story collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth.

I learned how to write by working in the short story form. It seemed an ideal way to figure out craft, because it offered great rewards without the soul-shattering grief of spending five years working on a novel that sucks. If I spent a month or two working on a story and it was bad, then I didn’t feel like I’d ruined my life.

So I wrote a lot of stories and tried to improve and, little by little, I did. I had a sense of how I wrote in the short form and it was a lot of fun. But I’d wanted to write a novel as well, to try something beyond my range.

Because, while I love reading short stories, I also love reading novels. Because I care equally about these forms, I wanted to be a part of them in some meaningful way as a writer. So I tried and failed to write two novels. The last failure was soul-shattering. It was not pleasant at all. But I kept at it, tried a new idea, and came up with a novel that held together in a satisfying enough way for me. When I finished, I didn’t feel like: Now I have graduated from short stories and I am a novelist. I was just a writer who had managed to write a novel.

After that novel, I went back to writing short stories, and I like the immediacy of moving through the narrative, of how sharp the lines could be and how quickly I could move into the essential aspects of the story and the characters. But I missed that weird sensation of chugging along on something big, something that required me to stop and think and take breaks from it. So I started writing another novel.

I like both forms. I love both forms. I want to keep doing both forms.

I have in the past, with my students, likened the difference between novels and short stories as such: With the short story, it’s like stealing a car and crashing it into a tree and walking away from the whole ordeal feeling immortal. With the novel, it’s like purchasing a car thanks to a reasonable loan and driving it cross country and realizing how amazing it is to have all this time in the car to think and observe the world around you. My students generally think this is a terrible way to describe the process.

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Benjamin Woodard is a short story writer. His recent work has appeared in Cheap Pop, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and decomP magazinE. He is an editor at Numéro Cinq Magazine and a regular contributor to Publishers Weekly and Rain Taxi Review of Books.

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