There is s traditional recipe (by genre) for developing story length, as to what works and what doesn’t. Let’s face it, the competition for writers is fierce out there and the most important thing will always be writing a quality story.
I read a lot for the average American, three to five novels, and five or six short stories a week depending on my mood and if I have the time. I found a novel last night that looks incredible, but then I noticed that it was 585 pages long. Because it’s in the Gothic Horror genre, I decided against it.
This page length means that the book is well over 120k words and traditionally
70-90k is the sweet spot for this type of horror. There are famous exceptions to these rules: Shelley, Stoker, Rice, but for me this was an instant deal-breaker for making the time commitment to read an unknown writer’s work.
Why you ask? Because I am bound by a pre-conceived belief that a great book has to keep my attention all the way through and if you can write the same story in 280 pages you definitely should. Literary agents and publishers are also looking closely at book length for printing costs and editing time.
I call the revision period after a first draft the, “Lemon Squeeze.”
As a writer, you’ve worked many hours to write a compelling story and now you have to whittle away at those beautiful words. Crocodile tears and a few epic tantrums later you keep revising, until you cannot take away any more without destroying the value you put in. It’s important and physically painful to do this, but it’s harder than drafting, much, much harder. Welcome to the topsy-turvy world of writing!
Editing is an art form after drafting any writing project and the new, anything goes type of word count I’ve been seeing lately is not a good thing.
Short stories are a form I find more difficult to write than a novel and am less inclined to read, unless they are written by Poe, O’Connor, Oates or Jackson. These writers reign supreme as master storytellers in short fiction.
To me the perfect word count for Literary fiction is 4k or less and for genre short stories 8k or less. It is incredibly difficult to write a short story of either length and to tell the reader enough to feel satisfied. It’s a challenge to find the right energy when the arc comes so quickly you barely have time to introduce setting, characters and theme.
Long story short, see how I did that? :) Please do your homework. Know your genre and ideal word count at the inception of an idea, draft like a madman, then edit like a beast. Good luck out there!
Until next time, find your Peace, Love, Hustle, then Read or Write. Xox Bibiana