Switching Gears?

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I have been putting a lot of thought into my writing as of late. I’ve already made one major gear shift in the direction of my writing, focusing on more fantasy shorts than science fiction shorts. The reason for that was brought to my attention by my girlfriend, who noted that a lot of my earlier science fiction stories were driven more by plot and my newer stories are driven more by ideas, which, with the way I write, doesn’t work. I tried to work around it, but I think my problem is I don’t have a lot of interesting stories to tell at the moment in SF (just ones I’ve already written). Since switching I’ve found myself far more open to new ideas with fantasy. This is not to say that SF is bad, just that my mind is a bit overloaded on SF. I’m pushing myself too much to write “good” SF and what is coming out isn’t necessarily the best of my best. My earlier stories had more adventure and conflict, and I need to try to tap back into that. After switching I started three promising fantasy shorts. One of them is finished (“The Gnomes of New Timberfax”) and needs editing, one is almost finished (“The Beautiful Are Not Far Away”) and one is started and on a semi-hold as I figure out where it’s going (“No Home For Underworld”). I’m very pleased with the gnome story and the second one, and will be more pleased with the last when I manage to finish it. Needless to say, I’m happy with this gear shift.
But now I’m considering another shift and I don’t know if it’s a smart idea at all. I’ve been focusing so much on short stories and it made me wonder if perhaps I should try to finish my science fiction novel (The Lies of Venicia/The White). I’ve been letting the novel writing slide under some sort of preconceived notion that I need to break into the short market to make novel writing more of a reality. I’m fully aware that you don’t have to do what is considered the “traditional” route to be successful, but there’s something about being a short story writer and then a novelist that seems right. But then there’s that part of it that feels like perhaps I’m putting too much time into one side and not enough time developing the other. I’ve only written one complete novel (The World in the Satin Bag) and part of the sequel (The Spellweaver of Dern), and about a third of the science fiction novel. I have loads of other novel ideas I’ve set aside because they began as shorts and became longer works, and ultimately I am not ready to have five or six novels going all at once. That’s too much.
So, I’m curious if perhaps I’m burning myself out on the short market and should really try to push the longer stories forward. Novels are…difficult, to say the least. They aren’t like short stories, not by a long shot. True, there are similarities, but there is infinitely more information in a novel than in a short story, because infodumping in a short story would be pretty much the kill point. But in a novel you can expand upon ideas and fully develop characters, giving them histories, futures, everything. I love both forms because of their differences.
Thinking about all this has really put my writing into question, especially considering what I want to do with my life. I’ve recently begun searching for freelance work–anything really, so long as it is something I feel comfortable doing–as a means to hopefully jump start my career and get appropriate references (anyone with a job for me, feel free to send an email). With that in mind, I considered the fact that novels take a long time to get published, if they are publishable. Unlike short stories, which can go to a magazine and get accepted or rejected in a couple days, weeks, or months, novels can take many months, sometimes years with one editor. The longest I ever waited for a short story to be rejected/accepted was four months, and that’s unusually long. But some novel writers have waited upwards of a year, sometimes two. Do I really want to wait five or six years before I start hitting the novel market (assuming I have something worth writing about, or something that an editor might like enough to want to publish, and I hope I do)? True, it could take me years to get published in any format (even if I am good), but I also have to consider where I want to be in the next two years.
I want to finish my BA and go on to graduate school for my MA and then PhD. I do want to teach, though that is more as a “job to do while I’m trying to jump start a writing career” thing (think of it this way: teaching is the job I’d like to do if I can’t be a full time writer). That’s a pretty good plan, in my opinion.
So, here I am, wondering what to do, how to go about my writing, etc. What do you think? Am I putting to much effort into short stories? Or should I keep plugging away?

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Florida studying science fiction, postcolonialism, posthumanism, and fantasy.

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