Now this is interesting, the comment thread on Tobias Buckell’s survey results has turned into a debate about the efficacy of writing short stories for learning how to write novels and for establising your reputation so that it’s easier to get your novels published.
Given that I can’t write a decent short story to save my life and have sold three novels I don’t think short stories are necessary to build a career as a novelist. Short stories and novels are very different kinds of writing. Being good at one does not mean you’ll be good at the other. There are the folks who are genius short story writers whose novels are well, um, not anywhere near as good as their stories. Like I said, they’re different forms.
On the other hand, I wrote hundreds of (broken, crappy) short stories before I wrote my first novel. Every one of those stories taught me something about writing. So as I began that first novel I’d already had a lot of practice writing dialogue, describing magical anvils, blowing monsters up. All of which came in very handy when I started writing the fictional form that I’m much better at.
Then there’s the publishing side of things. Science fiction has long had a very strong and vibrant short story market. So many well-known sf writers started out publishing short stories: Asimov, Pohl, Silverberg, Russ,
Delany, McIntyre etc. etc. So it used to be true that a great way to break into sf was to make a name for yourself as a short story writer. It’s not nearly as true as it used to be. Though if, say, Ted Chiang had a novel to sell I imagine the editors would be lining up around the block.
Romance and young adult and crime and other genres do not have anywhere near the same kind of short story market so that path into publishing is not available. You want a name as a romance writer then you have to publish novels because there’s pretty much no one publishing romance short stories.
So here are my questions: How many of you write both short stories and novels? How do you see the relationship between the two forms? Is one harder for you than the other? Or does it depend on the kind of story you’re telling? Do you read short stories as frequently as you read novels?