To write a novel, don’t write a short story instead!


This month, I have mostly been side-tracked by the Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize, which is a huge international competition that I’ve entered for the past couple of years.

Normally, I’ve had a story that I can refresh for this, and send off without too much fuss. But this year I had nothing. At the beginning of the month, I decided to write a new story for the 1 November deadline.

I sat with my pen in my hand, and an 82 year old woman who lives in a caravan, and who’s been in my head for a few months (I thought she might be a novel, at first), fought herself onto the page. And then a 16 year old boy walked past her van and they started talking.

Celebrating the first draft…

I’m now editing. I have little notes, as I always do, littering the page that sayย More Here, and I’m trying really hard to describe the sound of helicopter rotor blades.

Scarily, it doesn’t have a title, yet. On the whole, the title comes first for me, and the story wraps itself into it. Because my octogenarian came first, the title was overlooked. And now I’m floundering a little. What if it never comes? What if I have to send it off with the title ‘Story’?

Deep breath, eat chocolate… ahh, that’s better.

By November, I’ll be back on my novel, which will at that point be officiallyย notย a novel in a year, because it began life during last year’s National Novel Writing Month… Where’s that chocolate?


Congratulations to George Saunders who has won this year’s Man Booker Prize, with his first full length novel, Lincoln in the Bardo. See, short story writers are awesome!

29 thoughts on “To write a novel, don’t write a short story instead!

  1. You’ll come up with something, I have no doubt. If you need any input or want to brainstorm, give me a holler.

    Hmm…helicopter blades…a high pitched squeal and lots of wind? Almost as high pitched as a dog whistle, but none of that is very poetic.


  2. I always struggle with titles. They’re generally the last thing I come up with, and occasionally, I have to have other people come up with one for me.

    I love the idea of an octogenarian living in a caravan. Best of luck with your revisions!


  3. Hi Annalisa – that conversation between an octogenarian and the teenager will be interesting to read … plenty of longer stories there … but well done and good luck with your entry … then back to your novel … it’s progressing … on the other hand- have another brief respite for more chocolate or vino by the look of it … is on the menu too – cheers Hilary


    1. Sometimes my muse is surprisingly helpful, other times she sits back and laughs as I try to make the actual sound of a helicopter ๐Ÿ˜‰ Whoop, whoop is pretty close.


  4. I second Madeline’s idea! Loved reading how this story came about and I hope I get to read the story itself sometime. Good luck getting it done and submitted!


  5. between chocolate, wine, and waking up in the middle of the night to write it down – you’ll have a good title
    You have certainly been making your writing goals this year. Good luck in the contest!


    1. I’ve been pretty impressed with how I’ve stuck to my goals. It’s surprising how much you can write when you set yourself to it – wish I’d figured it out sooner ๐Ÿ™‚


  6. Good luck with the contest! And I think your story sounds interesting; the perspectives of people from two different generations are obviously going to be very different from each other, so it’d be cool to see how they interact. And as a little side note, once I tried writing a short story but got carried away and it became a manuscript for a novel. ๐Ÿ™‚


  7. I’m terrible at titles. it’s usually the last thing to get done. Something to do with the age discrepancy and the friendship? Or something with “Octo” in it? Sorry I’m not more specific. I’ve also gone for this prize the last couple of years, but forgot this year – darn! Still time, I suppose.


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