Novels Are Marathons, Short Stories Are Sprints

When I was a kid, I HATED running. Hated it. Here in California, in middle school, we were forced to run with the goal of a ten-minute mile (which I never hit – not once) and every time I was pushed onto that hot, bleak track, I would spend the agonizing minutes imagining myself passing out so that the gym teacher would feel sorry. It never happened, but man, if thoughts could manifest…

Flash forward to me deciding to take up running after my son was born. I’m not sure why I thought I should run. Maybe because it was something I could do any time, right out the front door, pushing the stroller. Anyway, it took months for me to work up to a 5K, and I felt pretty good about that because it was hard. Then a friend of mine convinced me to do a Tough Mudder with her, so I started training for longer runs.

And here’s the weird thing – I started noticing that, without fail, running got easier after the third mile.

If you had told my chubby 12-year-old self that running actually felt good once you’d been at it for forty minutes or so, I probably would have thrown up at your feet. I mean, who knew? Right around mile four I am flying. I’m floating. I’m in the zone. I feel like I could go forever.

And it struck me the other day that this is an awesome metaphor for my writing.

When I was in grad school there was this myth that we all bought into that we would publish a few short stories, then write our novel. Like short stories are all so easy to write. Like they are nothing more than warmups for novels.

I just want to say for the record: they are not.

Short stories are hard. They are an art form all their own, not to be confused with novels. Having written both, I feel like short stories are harder. They are like those first few miles of a run.

To extend the metaphor even further, I can acknowledge that sprints certainly do have their place. Even though I sometimes run shorter runs, and sometimes write short stories, I know enough now to say that these will never be the things at which I excel.

I need a nice long story to find my groove and I wish someone had told me that I didn’t have to master the art of short stories before jumping in to write a novel.

So if you want to write a novel but feel like you have to prove yourself by publishing some short stories first, allow me to be the one to tell you – it’s just not true.

Write what you love. Because otherwise, what’s the point?
There are no cardiovascular benefits to writing.

2 Responses to Novels Are Marathons, Short Stories Are Sprints

  1. DV August 16, 2018 at 5:45 pm #

    Wow. I never really stopped to think about it that way, but thanks for the headsup. Luckily I’ve never really felt like I HAVE to write a short story to become a writer, but I did feel like I needed to build up a “portfolio” of random writing things like blogs, articles on websites etc before I could even hope to get a publisher to look at anything I had attempted.

    Not that it would have hurt, but I would’ve spent so much time doing what I didn’t really want to do. Luckily I discovered this amazing community of published and indie authors and my world has been opened up.

    “Write what you love. Because otherwise, what’s the point?
    There are no cardiovascular benefits to writing.” I love this. I think you may have to copyright it. 🙂

  2. Bryan Fagan August 13, 2018 at 6:35 am #

    Writing a story is easy. Writing an entertaining story is hard.

Leave a Reply