How to transition from short story to novel?

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How to transition from short story to novel?

Post by Garmar on Fri May 01, 2009 10:39 am

I have a bit of a problem. I have an idea for a novel in mind, but I don't really know how to go about structuring it. I do alright in around 2000 words.

I know some of you have written novels. Did you use a system to keep it organized?

Any input is most appreciated!

Gary.

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Re: How to transition from short story to novel?

Post by Jennifer_million on Fri May 01, 2009 10:47 am

I just write the chapters and let them flow delete what I don't like but after 8 or 9 pages I try to make a new chapter but it still follows the story.. i hope this makes sense. =)
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Re: How to transition from short story to novel?

Post by NaClmine on Fri May 01, 2009 1:41 pm

Every story starts and ends. Imagine driving from Los Angeles to New York using city streets and country roads. The trip would be amazingly interesting AND you would reach your destination. So, if you know how the story starts and how it's supposed to end, then everything in the middle are a bunch of sideroads that carry the reader toward the destination. Those side roads (subplots) have their own themes...

- direct action on the overall plot. That's kind of like jumping on a freeway for a few miles during the journey -- fast action, high pace, leaves the reader needing a break.

- character development. This can be accomplished during main plot development but side roads (subplots) in the story offer opportunity to change the pace of the story, introduce other characters, complicate the plot, build in slower (yet interesting) pace, and - of course - a chance to reinforce the reader's antipathy toward the antagonist. (In LHW, I used several such plot devices to show the aggressive and violent nature of both the Heptari culture and the main antagonist, Rotaga.)

- parallel story lines. I love parallel story lines. They provide small independent stories within the overall story that share some common plot theme like time-line, heritage, culture, etc. As the plot develops, these parallel subplots beging to merge into one uniform story just at the climax.

Just remember the start and the end. The rest simply needs to help you get there. And the nice thing about writing, if you think about every story as a road map, you (the writer) are the driver. You can drive the story like a bat out of Hell, staying on the freeway to cover a lot of distance, or you can travel on lots of interesting side roads. The only "rule" about those side roads is this, "All detours during a story MUST lead in the direction of the story's destination."
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Re: How to transition from short story to novel?

Post by Garmar on Fri May 01, 2009 2:40 pm

That was an excellent post, Dean! Thank you.

I'm about to start my first novel and I'm trying to get all the different ideas I have jumbled up in my head to coalesce into something like a story. I've been thinking about something along the lines of short stories that all revolve around the main story line.

What you said aligns with my basic thoughts.

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Re: How to transition from short story to novel?

Post by NaClmine on Fri May 01, 2009 2:56 pm

The original plot for The Last Human War was simple. A human laborer in an alien POW mining camp has had his DNA altered, giving him some kind of special power that nobody, even him, knows about. He escapes from the camp at the same time as his captors come under attack by another race of aliens. In his quest for freedom - freedom being one of the driving needs of all humans - he discovers his power and saves both his fellow humans and the somewhat benevolent captors.

The first "draft" was that simple. And, it just grew from there along all those "side roads", all leading to the final clash of the plot. Ironically, it ended up exactly how the original simple outline envisioned. The one human managed to save an entire alien race and his own human race, and all in a story with many layers of character development and pace changes. I guess I got lucky! LOL
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Re: How to transition from short story to novel?

Post by Sam W on Sat May 02, 2009 1:36 am

Outlining works for some, not so well for others. Personally, I don't outline. I feel that it stunts creativity and spontaneity. There's no better feeling, in my opinion, than the feeling you get when the story starts to "write itself". You could be sitting there, writing the third chapter, and you get an idea for the next one. It wasn't what you originally planned, but damned if it doesn't sound great in your head! That's what makes story-telling so rewarding.

Novels are hard things to write (I should know; I've written five of them!). People inevitably lose interest and dedication when something stretches past ten thousand words. What I would do, Gary, if I were you, is treat the novel as a bunch of short stories all interwoven together. Get it out of your head that it's a "novel" you're writing. People hear the word "novel" and start to panic: "Oh, God, how do I remember what happened twenty pages ago; do I outline; how long should a chapter be!" You will remember what happened twenty pages ago. You'll become so immersed in the story that you'll remember the minutiae of it. Outlining is a preferential choice. If it gives you structure and helps get the thing written, do it. And chapters can be any length you want, but I'd advise you to keep them moderate.

Further elaborating on what Dean said: Sub-plots are what keeps a story interesting, both in terms of reading and writing. If you were to write from just one POV throughout the entire novel, you would gradually become bored. Branching off into sub-plots is like starting a whole new story within your story. It keeps the writing process from becoming stagnant. It also allows you to breathe life into new characters and ideas.

When reading, it allows the author to set the pace with which he wishes to convey a certain story. The bad guys, for instance, might be in a hurry to get to their destination. So their POV would be snappy, powerful, and brief. The good guy, you could take more time with, because you want to characterise him/her a bit more. So their POV and chapters would be longer. It's all about keeping the read interesting for a reader. (Thanks to Dean for the solid advice on this subject).

If you want to read a novel that has, in my opinion, the best sub-plotting I've ever read, look no further than Tom Clancy's Clear and Present Danger. He is the master when it comes to sub-plots. Plus, the book is probably the best thriller novel I've ever read.

Good luck with it, Gary.

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Re: How to transition from short story to novel?

Post by Lady Goodman on Sun May 03, 2009 9:34 pm

So, I was all about the outline, until I tried to write my first novel. I was never excited about the entire story. It's all I talked about. I wrote out a detailed outline (it was 46 pages) including all my research for the places, people, things I was including.

Then, I started writing my story. I didn't get more than 20 pages into the actual story. I knew exactly where I wanted it to go, but it seemed boring and contrived.

I'm working on a new story now. In less than two weeks, I've written more than I ever got done on my first story because I'm interested to see where it was going. FOR ME (perhaps this isn't you), I had a lot of fun writing the outline, but then the story was boring to me.

Since you have written the short story already, then you pretty much have your vague outline of where the story is going to go. My suggestions, separate what you have into 20 "chapters". Then go through and expand on everything you have written. Someone has blue eyes, why did you chose to do that? Someone gets killed in the end - then build up someone that can be affected by that throughout your story. Go through and add quite a few pages to each "chapter". Then, go through and edit inconsistencies, then expand again.

I read your suicidal story, and I believe that you could EASILY expand a story like that into a full on novel and stave the boredom that comes with a too-much extended novel.

The best of luck to you!
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Re: How to transition from short story to novel?

Post by Garmar on Mon May 04, 2009 10:06 am

Thanks for the encouragement and great advice! I believe I'm going to expand one of my short stories into novel length.

I'm going to get Clear and Present Danger if it's at the library. I've meant to read some of his work, but haven't yet, so it sounds like I'm missing out on a great writer.

Thanks again!

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Re: How to transition from short story to novel?

Post by Sam W on Mon May 04, 2009 11:49 am

Garmar wrote:Thanks for the encouragement and great advice! I believe I'm going to expand one of my short stories into novel length.

I'm going to get Clear and Present Danger if it's at the library. I've meant to read some of his work, but haven't yet, so it sounds like I'm missing out on a great writer.

Thanks again!

Whatever you do, don't touch his new stuff with a fifty-foot barge pole. It's full of mindless pages of crap, the majority of which could be removed without taking away from the story. Here's the books of his I would recommend, Gary.

The Hunt for Red October
Patriot Games
Clear and Present Danger
Without Remorse (
possibly his best book ever).
The Cardinal of the Kremlin

Don't read Red Storm Rising, The Sum of all Fears, Debt of Honour, or Executive Orders, unless of course you want to finish the Jack Ryan series. It takes a really die-hard and dedicated fan to read a combined total of over three thousand pages, the majority of which is not action-packed like those other five I mentioned.

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Re: How to transition from short story to novel?

Post by Bagit on Thu May 07, 2009 9:43 am

Hey Gar, if i had a thanks button right now, i would be wearin' it out!

Nice informative info and ways to look at what your writing/going with the story is priceless... cheers

Thanks everybody,

~Bagit
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Re: How to transition from short story to novel?

Post by ebyss on Fri May 08, 2009 3:20 pm

I know that this subject was already talked about, but I wanted to toss my two cents in.

When I wrote my ms, I had an idea that sat in my head for awhile. I finally sat down, and wrote it. As I typed on the keyboard, other avenues opened up and my characters were going down another road that I didn't even know was there. Like a detour.

So what Sam, Nacl, and Lady said is completely true.

If you have an idea and your beginning, (i'm not even certain you need an end, mine is nothing like I originally planned) then you have the makings of a novel.

Not only that your talented. And you can do it. :)

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