On the illicit love of short stories

Earlier this week I was discussing podcasts with Emma Newman and she pointed me towards a podcast interview she did with the guys at The Roundtable Podcast. I’m very glad she did – I’ve been binging myself on the Roundtable back-catalogue ever since.

Emma’s interview also made me smile when they discussed the difference between writing a novel and a short story.

She compared writing a novel to a marriage. First of all, it’s long-term commitment and takes work. The majority of the time it’s wonderful, but there are points when you want to walk away. Emma alluded to the times when you can’t bear to be near your novel, when writing it becomes a trial and yet, when you are away from it for a couple of days, you miss it with all your heart. Your novel is your life, your reason for getting up and working every day. And, like a good marriage, it can define you.

Writing a short story, on the other hand, she described as a holiday fling, a passionate distraction that you can enjoy in the heat of the moment and then – most of the time – remember fondly afterwards. Something wonderful and thrilling that can make your heart beat faster, a bubble of excitement before you return to real life.

I love these descriptions. Especially this week. Take Monday for example. I had dedicated Monday evening to work on my novel, but my head was turned by a short story idea that popped into my head when I spotted some artwork by the hugely talented Tom Brown.

I knew it was wrong, I knew I was cheating on my novel, but I had to have that idea there and then. I fell upon the story in a frenzy and a few hours – and 3,000 words – later, had a short story which is now going to appear in the next edition of the BFS Journal. Writing it felt illicit and wrong – but oh, so good!

The only trouble? The world developed in that short story keeps tempting me to return to its forbidden embrace. It might end up being more than a one night stand at this rate.

I just hope my novel will have me back…

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