- By Steve Dempster
- Published 03/24/2008
For many aspiring writers, the novel is the chosen path to publication. Yet with so few achieving this goal, why not consider some other pathways to success? This article lists three reasons why not to write a novel and gives some alternatives! 1. Novels take a long time to write. On average, a novelist will spend a year on researching and writing their novel. Don’t forget that this is full-time work too! Any novel is a major undertaking in writing terms and for a new writer it can be a monumental undertaking. So here are a few alternatives for you: Fillers: Plenty of magazines accept short (100-200 word) fillers that can be slotted in to fill a blank space on the page and, considering their length, are very well-paid. Don’t dismiss them as being ‘not writing’ – they are, believe me. Feature Articles: These range from what you did on holiday to your favourite meal to how your dog means so much to you. Again, payment is generally good considering word length. Short Stories: I’ve mentioned these so many times before but I make no apology for including them here. If you can crack the magazine short story market you may never feel the need to write a novel! It’s a lucrative and respected market full of ‘real writers’ – some of whom have also never written a novel and probably never will! 2. Novels face tough competition to get published. This is very true. The reason? Simple – every aspiring writer, it seems, wants to write a novel. Many see it as the way to fame and fortune. Others regard the novel as ‘real’ writing and anything is is just playing at it. However, here again are a couple of real alternatives: Factual Books: If you have in-depth knowledge and experience of a subject, a factual book may well be your way into print. It could be a book on your time in the armed services. Maybe you have for years been a keen gardener and want to share your knowledge, or perhaps you would like to write your biography. Factual books are one field of writing that new writers seem to ignore – yet they are a much more likely route to publication than any but the very best first novel!
Ebooks: There’s a lot of uncertainty amongst new writers concerning ebooks and yet it’s one of the easiest ways of getting into print via the self-publishing route. Th
ere are many online magazines, fanzines, e-zines and so forth that are always on the look-out for new, fresh material. Just because your book isn’t printed on paper doesn’t mean to say it has no value (you’re reading this article, aren’t you?). In fact many writers have started their career by writing ebooks and then ‘graduating’ to the print-on-paper variety after they have established a ‘track record’. Short Stories: Yes, I know I’ve already mentioned these but the competition to get your short story published, whilst still intense, is nowhere near the pressure that exists within the new novelist encampments. True, you have to be good to get short stories published. Consider, though: A short story maybe will take a few days to write – not a year. If it doesn’t get accepted – write another. Then another. Repeat until you get accepted (and you will if you’re persistent and a half-decent writer). The point with short stories is just that – they’re short. It’s the difference between strolling down to the local park and hiking around the world. An added bonus is that, with every short story you write, you get that little bit better. It’s true, trust me. So any stories that don’t make it can be shelved and looked at again later – maybe six months. I guarantee that you will want to edit and re-write them into better form! 3. Novels are technically difficult. Although this is not strictly true, it is easy to get lost within the pages of your novel. Why? Well, a novel is not only quite long (the shortest is about 60,000 words), it also has many more characters and, normally, a far more involved plot than a short story or novelette (a long short story, if you know what I mean). Novels must be planned by new writers or their chances of completion are limited. So whilst novels aren’t always technically difficult to write, they are much more complex than shorter works. Alternatives to the novel? As always I fall back on:
The Short Story. Though often seen as the springboard to novel writing, the short story is a writing form in its own right – not just a ‘mini-novel’. Far from it and, although it’s true that the disciplines learned by short story writing can be transferred (at least to some degree) to novel writing, the short story stands alone in its form and composition. Write a novel? Why, when you can do any of the above? And yet, were I to recommend one form for the new writer it would of course be the short story. Get into this particular market and you should never really look back as a writer!