Writing Updates & A Few Musings on Story Length

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Well, firstly, the big news of the month is that I sold a story. It won’t be published until the fall, but this brings my grand total up to three, a modest number, but it’s a start. There was some rejoicing to be had, and then a quick return to the grind. I imagine that like many writers, I have an ever-expanding number of projects of varying sizes and levels of completion. I’ve decided not to actually count because the number would probably scare me. My brain can’t help itself. I’m always thinking, plotting, imagining, and I hop from idea to idea. It all adds up. But not every story has to be the same length.

This sounds like a fairly simple concept. Of course not every story has to be the same length! But it’s not as self-evident as one might expect. At least it wasn’t for me. I like knowing the rules and understanding the guidelines, and one consequence of spending a good portion of my life studying literature is that I’m very aware of the different categories: drabble, flash fiction, short story, novelette, novella, novel, etc. And each category has word counts. Training my brain to think in word counts was a process in itself. But the point is that there are options and rules. In the digital age, the rules aren’t as important as they used to be. The novella and the novelette have been rescued from the dustbin. Drabbles and flash fiction have taken a new popularity. And given the amount of effort I used to put into stretching my stories, making them longer, it is ironic that the realm of flash fiction is where I’ve had the most success thus far.

There is a great deal of freedom in allowing a story to be the length it wants to be, rather than forcing it to conform. This has resulted in several shorter than expected pieces, and more troubling, some longer than expected pieces. The novella may be staging a comeback, but the in-between realm of short stories that are a little too short to be a novella and a little too long for the average short story market remains a bit of a no man’s land. The question of whether to wheedle them down or expand them is one I’m still considering. The unfortunate answer is probably that it depends on the story. I’m currently working on a story that will clearly fall into that no man’s land, and these questions will determine what I do for the next draft.



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