The long and the short of it.



Another week has passed in self-isolation here in Devon.


Things are carrying on much the same. My children are still working in hospitals, and we are still worrying about them. This week, instead of filling the post with details of what I’ve not been doing, or about all the food we’ve been eating, I’m talking some more about writing. After all, the lockdown hasn’t really changed that.


Before we begin, here’s a quick plug for my textbook on world-building.

Even though it says Sci-fi, the principles apply to any genre.

Do you want to write Sci-fi or Steampunk adventures?
Are you struggling with World Building?
Do you want to create a world: or even a universe, but you’re put off by all the science you think you need to know before you can start?

If the answer to any of those questions is yes, I’ve tried to simplify the process by showing you another way.

This guide is based on the World-building workshops that I hold as a member of the Exeter Authors Association. The aim is to show you an easier way of doing things, with chapters on such subjects as Location, Characters, Sidekicks and Steampunk. I’ll tell you the method that I’ve used to create several universes in the future and in an alternative present, maintaining realism without getting bogged down in the technicalities.
Creating a Sci-fi World contains exercises and suggestions, as well as examples from my novels, there are even some short stories to illustrate how my methods can be applied.


It’s only when you come to change from writing short stories to novels, or vice versa, that you see just what a difference you need to make in your style and approach.

In the short form, whether it’s a novella, a short story of a piece of Flash Fiction, even a blog post, every word is precious. Especially if you have a wordage limit. This could be imposed by the rules of a competition, or by some other requirement. In the short story, even more in the Flash, each word must pull its weight, contribute to the whole.

While this is still true in a novel, the fact that you are now only constrained by the story means that you can be a bit more verbose. A description that you had to fit into fifty words in a short piece, can now be as long as you like. Backstory can be expanded. Action can be prolonged.


I enjoy writing in both forms. But when I come back to a novel after spending a lot of time on short pieces, I have to constantly remind myself that I can actually take my time. I can flesh things out a little and not try to get the whole story done in less than 10,000 words (or whatever).

As long as you don’t pad it out. I hate padding. I hate seeing pages of backstory, set out like an article in an encyclopaedia. I prefer my backstory to be imparted as part of the action, as a conversation between two characters, even as a warning, shouted out at a running fugitive. It makes it part of the tale.

You also have to consider the reader in all of this. If someone is expecting a short story, they will forgive you for sparseness and brevity. Their mind will fill in the gaps, they want action, not flowery prose. Try brevity in a novel and the same person will howl that they are being short-changed. The story is rushed, they will say, everything happens too fast. I can’t visualise the world, the descriptions are too weak.

It’s all about what’s appropriate for the task.


The fun comes when you change a story from one type to the other.

A good example is Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café. As I’ve said before, it started life as a short story. When I was persuaded to expand it, I was both pleased and worried. Pleased that someone enjoyed the short version enough to want to know more about the character and worried that I wouldn’t be able to write a full novel based on what was a lot less than Chapter One.

More so when you realise that I had no clue what would happen next. I had to create a world, the café on a space mine orbiting Saturn, mining ships and techniques, a farm in space and all the things that kept the people alive out there. Things that the short story only had to hint at. And that was before I could start to give Andorra any adventures. I hadn’t had to do that in the short story, nobody was expecting me to.


It’s no easier when you move in the opposite direction. If you create a short story as a spin-off from a novel, you are faced with a different problem, what to leave out. You need to get enough scene-setting in to make the reader invest in the story, make them want to seek out the longer works. But you also have to consider the requirements of the short form and not put too much in to disrupt the story you want to tell. 


And there is a third type as well. That’s when you have an idea for a short story and, as you write it, you realise that it will be so much more than that. The idea just keeps on going and you find yourself creating a novel; or even a series. Dave Travise started out that way, I had an idea for a short story, which grew into a novel, then there was a prequel, a sequel and a spin-off (which will soon have its own sequel).


But whether it’s a short story, a novel or something between the two, when you type the first word, you really have no idea where it will take you.


You might be interested to know that Andorra Pett is involved in a Bookfunnel promotion, along with some other great novels, follow this link to see what’s on offer.

https://books.bookfunnel.com/firstinmysteryseries/ag2y32xedn


And there is also a promotion running for The Lost Princess, my prequel to the Balcom series. This is now a FREE download. Check it out and all the other books on offer at the following link.

https://books.bookfunnel.com/voyagesofspaceoperashenanigans/2ownidkopl


Promise Me, the third part of the Dave Travise series will be released on May 31st. You can pre-order at http://mybook.to/Promise_Me


All my publications can be found on my Amazon page, at


I hope everyone who reads this is coping and that your families are OK, please stay inside and stay safe.


I’d love to get your comments, please leave them below. While you’re here, why not take a look around? There are some freebies and lots more content, about me, my writing and everything else that I do. You can join my newsletter for a free novella and more news by clicking this link.

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2 Responses

  1. sally cronin

    Excellent Richard.. I have scheduled a new book promotion for Promise Me for 7th June when it is available and showcase the series as a whole. Enjoy your weekend.

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