It's funny to think that a couple of years ago I would never have thought about writing a novel. For years, I focused on writing short stories. I love the challenge involved in forming a complete story in few words (sometimes very few words). I also love how short stories are similar to photographs - they capture moments in time. But after I challenged myself one winter to write a novel in a month, I realized I couldn't turn back.
According to my sister, novel writing suits me well because I like to talk. (I swear, I have no idea what she means by that.) But I've had some issues making the leap. The whole length business - going from a few thousand words to tens of thousands of words - has been interesting. I've had to learn to search for expansive ideas instead of compact ones as well as conquering how to make a plot of that size work and make sense at the end of it all.
Novel writing, however, has improved my short stories. While working on a couple of new stories recently, I realized that my first drafts were stronger and the plots and character development tighter than before. As I wrote, I could even tell that my thought process was more organized. Ideas came faster, and without plotting, I still ended up with a cohesive first draft. Instead of one hot mess, I had one hot rough draft I couldn't wait to spiff up.
My conclusion is this: writing in new forms helps all of your writing. I've experienced this several times over. So write in new forms and styles once in a while. If you're scared, all the better. Learning a new form will bring something good to the writing you're most familiar with. And it's fun!
What different forms of writing have you tried, and what was the result? How did it help or enhance your favorite writing form?