I had this idea a couple years ago for a novel, and I even went as far as outlining it, scene by scene. For some reason, I didn’t start working on it. Something just wasn’t right about it, although I couldn’t put my finger on the problem. So I put it aside to work on other—more pressing—things.
For two years, this idea festered in my mind. Not everyday or anything, just every once in a while, the idea would burble to the top of my idea stack. I’d bat it around a while and then toss it back. I was always too involved with something else to actually work on it. Recently, a “gap” between writing projects presented itself, and I decided to take another look at this outline.
(Aside: This turned out to be problematic. I searched for my outline everywhere: hard drive, back-up hard drive, other computer’s hard drive, file cabinets, email archives, CD-ROM in the safe deposit box. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it. But I remembered the idea well enough to jot down a few notes.)
I thought about the project and finally came to two conclusions.
One, the core idea was pretty cool.
Two, it would make a poor novel.
Instead, I wrote a short story.
What would have been a disaster in 300 pages, fit perfectly into twenty. I was able to develop the limited number of characters, and the plot moved along quickly—no lulls, no “muddle in the middle,” no ten-page interior monologues. If the story had been any longer, I’m afraid both the characters and the plot would have seemed watered down and contrived. I’m glad I listened to my gut in the first place and didn’t try to write it as a novel.
Now my challenge is to figure out what to do with the finished story. (Any ideas?)
Have you ever gotten a good idea for a novel, but then felt you couldn’t sustain it for that long, so you turned it into a short story? How did that work out?