Saturday, May 9, 2009

the long and the short of it

Does size matter? When it comes to writing, it can. (Why? What did you think I meant?) Fiction sizes can range from a short story to an epic series. When we start to write something, usually we have a rough length in mind. Sometimes we get an idea and just run with it, letting the story tell itself in whatever length it requires. It’s like getting in a car and not knowing if it’s going to take you to the end of your driveway, the nearest town, or across the country.

My very first writing endeavors were novellas. Then I tried to write a romance novel but couldn’t get past the first chapter. Then one day I got an idea for a novel I liked so much I decided to make it a short story so I could finish it. Lo and behold, it turned into a 100K word novel.

Until recently, the idea of writing a short piece of fiction gave me the willies. If I go to the trouble of inventing characters, I want to spend some time with them. In fact, my novels just got longer and longer. I got into great depth with characters, savored every nuance of setting, and rode a twisting, turning plot that just wouldn’t quit.

I got so carried away I wrote a novel that was almost 200K words! At which point, one agent said “uh, I can’t sell something this long” and another said the beginning didn’t hook her enough. I was so concerned about doing characterization well I lost my old skill -- rapid-fire plotting.

So now I’m published--with a short novel of all things. I read some novellas and enjoyed how I could devour them quickly in one sitting. (It’s more fun than slogging through a classic novel of 900+ pages.) The second book I wrote for my publisher was long as usual, but to my surprise I found myself wanting to write a novella for the third book. For the fourth, I pushed further still and attempted a Quickie.

I must say, I enjoy short works. The writing is easier to schedule my life around, the sense of accomplishment comes more quickly, and the tight space forces me to write better. Revisions are easier too. The downside is the fun is over too soon. There’s not as much adventure in taking that long trek writing the first draft where I can only see as far as my plotting headlights. There’s no sense of discovery in rereading a long first draft either. So I’ll probably write a mixture of short and long, enjoying the differences in each--because size always matters!

Afton Locke


Ashley Ladd said...

When I first started reading your post I thought "Oh no! Short stories aren't good enough," because that's what I've been concentrating on lately. Most of my recent releases are novellas and short stories. I'm glad to see that you also enjoy short works. I like the sense of accomplishment and also having a lot of releases throughout the year versus one or two. But I do want to have a few longer ones so I'll have to make myself write longer sometimes.

Fran Lee's Romance Blog said...

You talking to me about length of writings? You have heard me whine and cry about having to cut hundreds of pages out? I know where you are coming from, girl! ;)

Marianne Stephens said...

Shorter stories grab a reader and keeps them going to read "just a few more pages".
I can't write more than 50,000 word stories, and that's because I don't like to read ones that are longer. Seems to me that lots of "fillers" are added to longer books and I'd just skip pages to get to the "real" story.
Nice blog.

Anny Cook said...

I've written everything from a Quickie to a longer novel. I prefer somewhere in the middle, both for reading and writing. But mostly, I write until I run out of story.

Amber Skyze said...

I'm a quickie writer too! The turnaround time is wonderful. I've written a handful of longer works, but seem to run out of steam around 55k.