Last week I decided that I would write a short story and enter it into the Toronto Star’s Short Story Contest. It seemed logical to me that since I’ve written a number of novels that surely I could whip up a 10-page short story in no time at all.
What I quickly realized is that a short story isn’t 10 pages of a 200+ page story. A short story is 10 pages of a 10 page story.
While some writers may shy away from the daunting number of pages in a typical novel, I learned that, in my case, it is just as frightening to fathom a complete story – with a beginning, a middle, and an end – in a limited number of pages. It’s like an artist who paints on a 10-foot square canvas and then decides to try painting on a 10-inch square canvas. Everything that made sense on the larger canvas – the size of objects, the choice of colours, the perspective, etc. – doesn’t necessarily work on a smaller canvas.
Writing a short story isn’t an easier version of writing a novel. It’s a new and different challenge.