I have written some short stories (in fact, they are flash fiction). When I'm writing short stories, the ideas and the structure come to my mind by themselves.

Something different happens when I try to write long stories. It starts with something simple, but then I add more and more stuff until it gets too complicated. Another thing that happens is that I lose interest in the story after some weeks. I just feel that it is not a story that I want to write. Other times, I just tell myself: I have nothing else to say in this story, it should end here.

Does this happen to a lot of beginners? How to overcome this problem?

(Sometimes I think that I should just accept my fate as a writer that only writes short stories. Or just write novels that are composed of interconnected short stories, like David Mitchell's Ghostwritten.)

  • 1
    Read about the snowflake method of writing. It is fairly easy to expand one single line concept,a good one,into a novel. Your biggest challenge will be to keep up the pace of the story. Stretching a line into a novel is easy,doing it in a way that the reader cant put it down,that's damn hard.
    – Akash
    Commented Feb 11, 2016 at 14:05
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    @Akash Ha no sure why so many people are answering this question these days. Anyway, I overcame this problem and finished my novel Animal Suicide. Thanks Writers SE for the help.
    – wyc
    Commented Feb 11, 2016 at 14:11
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    Well SE sites work to provide answer, not only to the first one asking a question, to all who might have it in the future. So it doesn't matter if a question is old, if it can be improved it will. Anyways, that's why this is a comment and not a longer answer. cheers :)
    – Akash
    Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 3:51

13 Answers 13


I've been there myself, stuck trying to work out how to make things flow in a larger context, but just feeling like I can't pull it off. It's frustrating all around, but I can at least tell you what I did to get over it. It be of some help.

  1. Keep trying to write the longer stories. It might be frustrating now, but if you don't work at it it won't ever come together for you. If you feel like the story has hit a dead end or you can't keep going on it don't be afraid to set it aside for a bit and try something else.
  2. Take it a step at a time. If length is the problem, don't just jump into a novel, take it in steps. You said you mostly write flash fiction, well move onto short stories, the longer short stories, novellas, and then onto full novels. As you work out each stage your confidence will grow.
  3. A long story doesn't mean having more stuff going on. True, you have more room to have more events, but the main benefit of the longer length is that you have more room to tell the story itself. While you can just add more events and struggles for your characters, you can also use the space to expand on the characters them selves. Show more of there interactions and motivations. You have the room to flesh out the story and make the players more interesting. Something that's much harder to do in a short story.
  4. Stories usually end up as long as they need to be. If your struggling to write a longer story maybe it's because that story doesn't need to be that long. It might be time to play around with outlining or brain storming to see if you can find longer and fuller tales.

That being said, all or none of this advice can work for you... well except for the first one. Keep trying to write long stories, it will help above everything else.


As I've said elsewhere, don't pad your stories with, er, effluvia. If your idea is a short story, leave it short. Not every writer has to write long pieces. I'm reasonably sure Shakespeare didn't write novels. If short stories are your strength, your passion, and your interest, stick with them.

Now, if you want to write something longer as an exercise, there are plenty of methods you can look up to help you do that. But don't do it because you think "only novelists are real writers" or that you're "supposed" to write books.

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    effluvia - Hahaha! +1 Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 15:53
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    Just keeping the mods happy and taking the Roget's for a walk. :) Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 18:24

Think of your story as separate scenes. Your idea about writing a novel of interconnected short stories is basically the same thing. Each chapter is a different scene, or a different short story, if you will. Take the time to figure out where you want to go with your story and then start documenting that.

A lot of writers will get an idea of what they want to write and then just sit down and start writing. The problem with that is you don't always have a clear understanding of where you want to go or how you want to get there. Take the time to outline each scene so that you have a roadmap. You don't have to put a lot of detail into the outline, just make sure you have one.

Try starting out with a couple of major characaters and an idea of what you want to do with them. Then take the time to plan for them to do something in each chapter (short story), and then keep adding chapters to help guide them through a process that takes them where you want them to go.

Sometimes it's just hard to maintain your focus, and that is where an outline can prove to be most benficial. It allows you to break up the work into smaller pieces while also providing you with a structure that helps you see the big picture.


Try taking a Screenwriting class, one that teaches structure -- or at least plan out what will happen in your story before you sit down to write it. The other good part about taking a class is that it will give you the feeling that you've got to finish the story, like it or not, in order to finish the class. So even if you get bored with the story you'll still have reason to see it through.

I've found that by understanding and defining the structure of a project, both at a macro and micro level, a couple things happen:

  1. Writing speed is increased drastically
  2. You are no longer writing a "long story", you are simply writing from the current position up until the next plot piece or structure point. The immediate goal is no longer as amorphous as "to write a novel", it is only to get to the next point.

I used to have a similar feeling, that completing a long-form project was unattainable, and the #1 thing that Screenwriting 1-3 did for me was show me that it is within reach.

As a shameless self-promotion, I've written an iPhone app that helps you do this. It's called StorySkeleton and it exports to native Scrivener and Final Draft, as well as rtf and txt. You can find it here: http://www.storyskeleton.com


Yes, it happens to a lot of people.

Writing is hard work, like anything else. You say:

I just feel that it is not a story that I want to write.

Real writing is re-writing. You need to bang out a first draft, then read through it. Then you need to make notes on how the book differed from your expectations. Ask yourself:

  • What was the book I wanted to write?
  • What I actually got?
  • What changes do I need to make to get the book I wanted?

And then you either completely rewrite the book, or modify the 1st draft. For beginners, complete rewriting maybe a better option. Even though it may seem like work, it will save time in the long run, as you are not trying to duct tape something broken.

You are correct in your idea about a novel being a lot of interconnected stories. All you need to do is, ensure there is a strong theme / conflict unifying the stories.

Like Steve Drennon and Fox Cutter have said, you need to keep practising. Writing a long novel is like running a marathon- you can't just go out and do it. You may need somepractice and groundwork before you are ready.


The ability to write a short story is notably different from that of a novelist. In sporting terms, one is a sprint, the other, a marathon. They are as different as lyrics and poetry, and very rarely will you find the best of one is the best of the other (e.g. Leonard Cohen). A poet may be tempted to write music, because there's a lot more money in music, but that in itself should not be sufficient cause to ignore your natural talent and inclination. Some of the finest short story writers have never written a novel, or at least, if they have, not to the same acclaim. This group includes Alice Munro (Nobel winner), Raymond Carver, Chekhov, Saki, and O. Henry. To quote Munro:

"So why do I like to write short stories? Well, I certainly didn't intend to. I was going to write a novel. And still! I still come up with ideas for novels. And I even start novels. But something happens to them. They break up. [...] So I wrote in bits and pieces with a limited time expectation. Perhaps I got used to thinking of my material in terms of things that worked that way." (Emphasis mine.) -- Alice Munro (The Atlantic)

Writing is always a question of experience. If Munro had spent years focused on writing novels, perhaps she would have become a novelist. The demands on her time by her family didn't allow for the requisite concentration. Ultimately, if it's your desire to write novels, and you have the time, skill, and dedication, you should follow your instinct. Not because novels are more commercially viable, or because they are seen as great works of art, but because you want to, because great writing can only happen at the convergence of desire, action, and inspiration.


Keep going forever no matter what.

  • Also maybe try planning out your story before you write it. And take long breaks and think about whether the things you're adding in along the way are truly necessary and truly add to the story. Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 13:23

I think its the same for everyone, I myself is a newbie in writing and does not have much knowledge about it. When I start to write I get short of words but once I have written few lines and got comfortable in it I continue writing endlessly even things that are not necessary. I think we can overcome this if we first create a rough draft of it and then re-write it again.


If you've written at all, you can write long stories. A long story is simply a bunch of short stories about the same subject that are stitched together to form a narrative.

Your life is a long story. Don't agonize over how to sustain focus or worry about losing interest in a long story. Just start somewhere. Anywhere. The middle is often a great place to start a novel. The best novel I wrote was one I started randomly one day from the middle.

Losing interest is totally common for beginners and veteran writers. If you've lost interest, either the story isn't good, or you want to write a different story.

Don't underestimate the power of habit. If you sit down every day and write a page or two on the same subject or idea, you'll eventually hone in on it.

I've been writing the same book now for six months. It took two weeks to build it into a habit. I didn't get distracted or bored with it.

Boredom also means that the writing might not be good. This is not the end of things. It means you must make it more interesting. Beginning writers have a tendency to keep too much of what they write. Try trimming fifty percent of it. Suddenly you have a sharp, focused story that moves along.

Envisioning the reward of completion is also a way to stay inspired. If the book is good, it could be published. At the very least, you've WRITTEN A BOOK, or a long story. This is cause for celebration.


A key thing is to understand that a novel is not a long short story, it’s more stories. The ending likely remains very similar, but there are more stories preceding that ending.

One way to get more stories is to have more characters. Most short stories follow just one character, but novels typically follow a few characters. It might help for you to imagine you are writing 3 short stories, each about a single character, but they all have basically the same ending. Then you weave those 3 short stories into a novel.

For example, a short story might be about someone whose loved one is killed by gangsters and who seeks out those gangsters and ultimately takes revenge. The novel version might add the stories of 2 other people whose loved ones were also killed by those gangsters, and whose stories also end when they take revenge. The thing that could weave those 3 stories together would be that the only reason the revenge succeeds at all for any of them is they meet and end up working together. So you are weaving 3 short stories together into a novel that depends on all 3 characters.



If you find that you can write short stories well, go and write short stories. Don't teach an elephant to fly (unless you can make a good story out of it).

Many authors wrote lots and lots of short stories, until one of them naturally turned out to be not quite so short.


It's funny that i have the opposite problem. I find it much easier writing novels than short stories, and oftentimes when i come up with a good short story plot it ends up actually being a novella!

For people who have trouble writing long stories, the so-called 'snowflake method' seems to be a good solution. In fact, it's what i naturally tend to do when writing a story, which is probably why i tend to write long stories.

Snowflake method in detail

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    Welcome to Writing.SE. If you have time, please take a look at out tour and help center pages. We try to encourage answers that are understandable in and of themselves, without an additional google search. Would you please elaborate on what the "snowflake method" is, and how/why you think it helps in writing longer stories? Commented Jul 7, 2018 at 17:45

To overcome the problem, you might try writing slice-of-life. This is because it doesn't have to have a well-defined structure (such as a beginning, ending, climax, plot, etc.) The structure often has a lot to say about the size of a book. If you don't have it, you can write indefinitely. Additionally, there tends to be a focus on simple things in slice of life (so, if you write traditional-style slice of life, then it probably won't get too complicated). You might focus on comedy to add to its interesting points.

Another thing you might try is writing multiple stories with the same characters repeatedly. Then maybe try to fit them together somehow.

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