A fellow author (and work comrade) noted that she was having trouble concentrating on a long-form piece of fiction for a workshop in the fall. Her forte has been short fiction, and she's gotten some of it published; my forte is long-form. Strangely, I find long-form work more comfortable than short-form, and this has baffled more than a few people: how is it that I can stick to something longer and finish it, but shorter work throws me off?
This is something that deserves more than a single answer, but I'll start with the reasons why I tend to stick with long form rather than short form, and then in a follow-up post, go into how I go about sticking to such projects. First, the why:
1. My ideas tend to run away with me.
In the sense that when I come up with an idea, I'm not content to only explore one immediate ramification of it. If I get an idea, I want to make a world out of it, walk through that world, and then close the door after me. Meaning that once I'm done with it, I'm done — I want to walk away and move on to something else. (Hence my One And Done philosophy when it comes to said books; no sequels, please.)
2. I tend to be very picky about my ideas in the first place.
Very little of what I come up with is developed into anything at all. The vast, vast majority of ideas I come up with are filed away in my idea book, and never do much more than indirectly influence other ideas, secondary or tertiary. Being picky means not just trying to spin out every what-if that comes my way, but saving my energy for the things that grab me most by the collar and demand to be realized in depth. Life's short, and I'd rather do as much justice as possible to those things than touch on a great many shallower, more fleeting ones.
3. Long form is its own discipline-building process.
This feeds back into the first two, both directly and indirectly. If I pick one thing and stick with it, it forces me to really think about what I want. Do I want to sit down with this idea every single day of the next year and a half or more? Pushing that question into my own face forced me to figure out what I really do find interesting, and what I just find to be a novelty.
Next time I'll talk about some of the specific criteria I've developed for settling on a long-form idea and developing it to book length.