View Full Version : How long should a story be?
July 23rd, 2002, 11:31 AM
I just finished rewriting the story that I had posted on here a couple months ago, and I was planning on resubmitting it. The first version was already pretty long--I was afraid it was too long actually--but everyone told me to add more description, so I did and now it's about two pages longer.
My sister read it for me last night, and she told me it needs yet more description and a more drawn-out ending.
But before I add another couple pages to the story, I wanted to ask everyone's opinion: When does a short story become too long? Is there a limit? Right now my story is about 6000 words, or 11 typed pages (single spaced).
I want you guys to read it for me when it's resubmitted. But will anyone bother if it ends up being a whopping 13 or 14 pages long?
I'm curious about people's opinions on this because limiting the length of my stories has always been a problem for me. (Perhaps I should try novels instead!)
I imagine it's a matter of preference. Some people like lots of description, some like a fast-paced story.
So what do you think?
July 23rd, 2002, 11:49 AM
I've read short stories that long and longer(though longer they tend to be called Novellas-IE Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach, one of my favorite stories)
I know what you're saying though...how long is too long? I've found a couple of publishers that will take 6000 page short stories, though you may just have to do it in parts is all. First story I wrote I meant to be a short story, but it just got longer and longer. How do you know when to stop putting in information? I guess it's comfort zone, really. But I'd say your story(from my experience)wouldn't bother me in it's length.
July 23rd, 2002, 12:06 PM
I sympathize, Tinalera. Most of my stories tend to be long, too, and it always seems like they need to be that long. I have difficulty translating "typed pages" into "book pages", but it seems like 6000 words is not too long for a short story. I've read 20-30 page long stories in collections and they were not called novellas. In my opinion, a story should be as long as it has to be...if that makes any sense.
July 23rd, 2002, 12:13 PM
I liked your origanal story Miri and no matter how long it is I will still read the revised addition and give as good a critique as I can.
July 23rd, 2002, 01:14 PM
Aww, shucks. Thanks, Shef. :)
I'll be submitting the new one in the next couple of days, unless I decided to totally rewrite again (but I think not, because I'm getting sick of the darn thing and am ready to move on.)
July 23rd, 2002, 01:41 PM
Personally I've always thought that less is more.
Trim the fat. Strip your story down to the bear minimum. Take out as many adjectives/adverbs as you can, cut out unnecesary description and any dialog that doesn't directly advance the plot. If you can use one word instead of two, then do so.
Remember that you're writing a short story. People won't be willing to invest a lot of time wading through tons of needless, flabby description like they might if they were reading a novel.
July 23rd, 2002, 03:36 PM
Well, there are two interpretations of 'too long'. Fourteen pages is not long, in itself. Forty pages is still a short story as far as I'm concerned. But it can also be too long in the sense that there's more writing than the story needs. In that case, it's bad writing. If it's not too long in the second sense of the term, I wouldn't worry.
July 23rd, 2002, 03:49 PM
Well, yes. The story dictates the length.
In this case we're talking about Miriamele's story, which (in my opinion) wasn't in need of extra description or padding.
July 23rd, 2002, 03:52 PM
I've had a number of conversations with aspiring authors on the subject of length, all of which have led me to believe that this in a fairly common problem. On one hand you don't want to deny the reader the beauty (or the horror or what-have-you) of the world you have created, while on the other you don't want to bog them down with unnecessary information.
Miriamele made the comment: "Some people like lots of description, some like a fast-paced story." While true, this sounds a lot like comparing velocity to distance. [Sorry for the physics reference]. A story's pace and length are two independent quantities - or at least they should be - in theory. Realistically as authors we have to face the following problem. We've created a beautiful (or horrible or whatever) world that we want to show the reader - in fact escaping to that world may just be the reason the reader picked up the story in the first place. But we have to edit what we've created - tell the readers what's important so that they don't stagnate in one spot and lose interest in the evolution of the story. The bottom line - focus on what's necessary for the advancement of the story.
But what's necessary? I'm not sure I'm qualified to answer, but allow me to paint the following analogy (babble). Remember the eighth grade? There was probably a day when you got a note from the best friend of that person you hadn't been able to stop thinking about for a month. At lunch you devoured all 13 pages, front and back. Then in the afternoon your teacher couldn't get you to read half a page of your history text in an hour - despite duct taping it to your face! What gives?
You can read the note because you care about whether or not that particular person will be at Susie's birthday party. You have a vested interest in the information. To a thirteen-year-old that's considerably more important than whether Sir John A. MacDonald was a conservative or a liberal [very sorry for the Canadian history reference].
Personally I don't care about the actual length of a story. The only time it should become a factor is when an editor says, "cut this down to N words so it will fit in our magazine." However, be sure that you're talking about whether or not you'll be at Susie's house, and not the Right Honourable Mr. MacDonald.
And one more thing - always leave them wanting more.
July 23rd, 2002, 03:54 PM
Well put, Choppy!
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