Comparisons in Dating: Flings in 6,000 words or less vs. Relationships with a Novel

Hemingway. Bronte. Austen. Dickens. God forbid, Rowling!

Those were the seductions of my youth, the aspirations I yearned for. And my dalliances did not lack for commitment. Sure, I held the ever-so-often tryst, the half finished manuscript hidden away in my hard drive like some forgotten picture of a love interest long ago fallen from favor. But I also carried great romances. My laptop was stocked with manuscripts fully polished. I had caressed each curve of those stories with hands that took care in their most intimate details. I knew every minute fact, every secondary, even tertiary character, even those who went by nameless and faceless wandering the background setting. I was the lover who had sat up late, sleepless, listening and taking to heart their sorrows and joys. My Creative Writing Documents Folder is full of these relationships, each one taking away a piece of me the second I felt the last word leave my lips, the final keystroke slip from my fingertips.

None of these loves have lasted. Each has been a relationship that ends with a saved document and a rejection letter in the inbox every few months.

I had never thought of myself as anything but a novelist. I was a marathon writer, the sprint just wasn’t a part of my pen. Yet, last year, when in my first creative writing fiction class at Emerson College that specifically focused on short stories, I discovered the “Speed-Dating Short Story.” In this class, we read at least four short stories a day (the class was twice a week), and they were all written by my classmates. It was mandatory to write two stories a semester, and our final was a revision of one of those stories. I had been let in on the secret that was the fling with a short story.

At first, I felt guilty. I have troubles with focus, see. I can’t even read two books at the same time without getting confused (seriously, readers, how do you do it?), let alone write a novel and a short story simultaneously. As my affair with the short story grew, my novels grew dusty and forgotten with disuse. I tried to run back to them every so often, but my fingers just didn’t seem to type as quickly upon the keyboard as before. My words didn’t ring as comforting or true. Had I fallen for the short story? Had I suddenly committed myself to what was only meant to be five to ten pages of short term literary fun?

Then the moment came. One of my short stories was accepted for publication. My fling, my one month heart and soul struggle, had pushed me out into the world with open arms and a wide smile. Granted, the world happened to only be my college population, but it was my first accepted publication, damn it! That short story had satisfied me in a way none of my novel manuscripts had managed to do.

Today, I still dream of that sensational novel, the one that stays with me longer than any other, who knows me inside and out, that takes me where no other writing has ever taken me before. The long term novel. But I have to say…there really is something interesting about a short story that can get you through the days.

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