One bit of advice I've found helpful as a writer over the years is to ensure I read non-fiction and outside of my genre, as well as fiction and my favourite fantasy works. Non-fiction and work outside your usual genre can inspire your own work and you want that inspiration to come from as wide and deep a range of publications as possible. It is no good just reading Little Women, say, (great book though it is), to inspire your own creativity.
- There is room in a novel to show a complete life of a character (indeed of several) so the reader can watch that character develop and get a fuller picture.
- Characters can develop further over several novels. Series novels are wonderful for this. (Have mentioned this more on a recent blog post for Chandler's Ford Today called My Top 10 Terry Pratchett characters. The Discworld series is a literally fantastic example of this point. See the Vimes novels from start to, sadly now, finish for a classic illustration of this).
- The problems characters face can be more detailed than in any short story and the characters can and should take longer to resolve these (if they can, which in itself can be a kind of resolution, the realisation that they can't so now what do they do?).
- Sometimes reading one problem a character faces is enough. This is the literary equivalent of having a tasty snack rather than a full dinner and can be satisfying in itself.
- Short stories can be worked on and submitted while a longer piece of work is in progress. It also adds variety to the writing life.
- You can write short stories about the characters in your novels to help you find out more about them, which can then add greater depth to your longer fiction as you're getting to know them better and will write for/about them with deeper confidence. It shows in your writing (and increases the chances of it being accepted. You can tell when a writer really knows their characters and it nearly always makes for a riveting read).