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Why Do Most Writers Start with Novels?

A new writer and musician posed a fascinating question on Reddit recently: instead of writing novels, shouldn’t aspiring writers focus on short stories or flash fiction first?

As more and more aspiring writers attempt novels, we thought the question was worth debating. Here is an excerpt:

No composition teacher would recommend that a beginning composer write a symphony. The idea is laughable to say the least. A symphony is something that is considered almost sacred, the level of craftsmanship, talent, dedication, and discipline required to write one—let alone one of any merit—is unprecedented. A beginning composer first works on technical exercises and then writes short pieces with limited instrumentation. Over time, as their craftsmanship and personal voice develop, they begin composing more technically impressive and expansive works. Why is it not the same for writing?

Why are writers encouraged to set themselves up for disappointment by beginning their journeys with a novel they will most likely not complete—or will most likely be of poor quality? Flash fiction, letters, writing prompts, short stories, why are these not the tools of a developing writer? … Why is there a focus on quantity over quality in the world of writers?

We found the question evocative. How did your writing life develop? Should writers consider working with smaller building blocks before heading to the novel? (Book burning memorial at Bebelplatz photo by Gabe Knezek)

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