During my vacation I took a break from writing and spent time reading instead. I blasted through Tobias Buckell's Sly Mongoose, a zombie-slaughter space-fest of trans-wormholic proportions, and Gormenghast, by Mervyn Peake (which is one of the few books I've ever read that I must command thee to consume).
Both books rely heavily on setting to develop their story, its atmosphere, and its characters. Encountering these sly settings made me realize how little I actually employ setting and imagery in most of my work. In the last few months I've all but obliterated the literary instrument of place in favour of focusing on dialogue and action; but after my reading break, I've realized that setting is just as important as every other component of the literary puzzle.
I've also arrived home in a somewhat-roughly baffled state. I have no urge to write short fiction presently, although I've been blasting my way through stories for weeks now. I have six or seven novels I'd really like to write, but the amount of learning I've done through my short writing utterly dwarfs the improvements I made when I worked on a few novels sometime last year. This suggests that moving on to a novel now--before my self-imposed short story term limit of "until 2011" is up--could be premature.
But the last thing I want to do is force myself to write without having fun. I really have a desire to get to know my characters better than short fiction allows, to get to know setting in all its depth and richness, and to pursue a longer piece to a good, solid end (my other novels lacked good or solid ends). For now, I'll run with it; if it disintegrates before the finish line, at least it will be words on the page.