It’s cold outside so I thought I’d post a photo of a fire!

Right, the baby’s asleep so I’ve got time for a quick writing update!

It’s been a better week than last week. I’m staring to get my head round the changes that are happening/coming and am getting things organised. This, thankfully, seems to have helped my writer’s block. Not that I’ve written much, but on top of my weekly limerick challenge and a poem about sleep deprivation (which was a visual poem too – a bit of an experiment) I’ve also written a short story.

Writing the story got me wondering though – when you write, how do you know how long the piece should be? Do you know at the start? Or do you just start writing and it evolves? What happens if it’s not obvious… if you come to a fork in the story-writing-road?

The thing is, with other things I’ve written I’ve had a sense, from the beginning, of how long they’re likely to be. I’ve written some flash fiction pieces recently and I knew from the outset that they would be around the 200 – 300 word mark. But this story was different and I’ve found myself writing two versions one of which is twice as long as the other! I’m currently undecided as to whether the snappy flash fiction version is better than the longer one which gets in a bit more of backstory and character development. Hmmm.

I experienced similar thing with a poem this week which could have had a fair few extra lines in. In the end, I decided they were unnecessary. But the story feels like a harder thing to judge. I probably just need to leave it for a few days and re-read and go with my gut. But it feels a bit like either decision could be right.

Does this happen with writing books too? Are there novels that would work better as novellas (or vice-versa)? Could some short stories even be expanded successfully to become whole books? Or does every story really have an ideal length and the trick, as a writer, is to find it?

Perhaps there’s no right or wrong. Maybe every story is as long or as short as we want to make it. But I have a feeling that in a truly great piece of writing no word is either wasted or lost.

I’m a long way from greatness though, so I’m still left wondering…

6 thoughts on “stories

  1. Stephanie

    Interesting questions! I struggle with the editing process. I never really know which version of my work is better. I am hoping I get better at making that call in time, I do find leaving work for a while helps.

    1. Maddy Post author

      Sometimes the harder I try to figure out which version is best, the less I know! Hopefully a bit of space helps – for both of us!

  2. Sadie Hanson

    Good for you on writing a short story – they really are an art form in themselves, not easy to write. If you really like a short you’ve written, you can always develop the ideas in it into something much bigger. X

  3. Maddy Post author

    Thanks Sadie. Some of my ideas feel a bit ‘in limbo’ between a short story and something longer. Hopefully I’ll work it all out in time.

  4. Chrissie

    I’m always aiming for around 50,000 words because of the way I write. This is between novella (up to 30,000) and novel (starts at 75,000) which makes my shorter pieces unsuitable for submission.
    When editing a novel, you should expect to lose 30% (I read that somewhere.) Editing my own stuff makes me sad, although I love editing other people’s work.
    For short stories, flash fiction or poetry, I’m not usually worried about how long they are as I normally write them in a burst of emotion, so the content is more important than the length.
    It’s great to see that you’ve been able to do a good chunk of writing this week. Are you submitting to competitions and things?
    As Sadie said, you can always develop short stories into something bigger. Isn’t that what Stephen King did with some of his earlier books?

  5. Maddy Post author

    Interesting facts Chrissie! I didn’t know about losing 30% – that’s a lot of words! I agree with you about writing with a burst of emotion – normally I write more like that and things are just as long as they are. I think the piece I wrote this week is really flash fiction but I do like the theme behind it which I could potentially develop into something really big.

    As for submissions – I want to make some but have very rarely managed it. I think it’s because I tend to just write what I feel like and then I’m never sure where it might be suitable for. I want to spend a bit of time looking around for specific competitions to enter or publications that might possibly like me and then write with that in mind. Not always but sometimes at least! Thanks for commenting x


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