The Challenge of Story Length

Before you start writing, it can sometimes be difficult to estimate how long a story will turn out to be. Especially as someone focusing on writing short stories, keeping it in fact short can be a challenge for me as I tend to write, for lack of a better word, longwinded. That sentence is in itself a case in point!

One other example lies in one of the stories I am currently writing. While I anticipated it to be a short story and explaining the plot takes a sentence or two (‘Ex-artifact thief goes to space and ends up on a planet that thrives on games’), as I started writing it, it became clear to me quite quickly that it will not be short at all! Two and a half thousand words in and my main character is still on Earth! (Don’t worry, he won’t be for much longer!)

Now in itself it isn’t a problem that a story turns out to have more flesh on the bone that you initially expect. Sometimes stories are wrapped up more quickly than you thought and other times it will become a little longer.

But the downside is that it will take a lot longer to write and edit and get it out in the public ether.

My main problem when stories turn out to be longer than I anticipate is the limited amount of energy I can spend. I adore the idea(s) I have for the characters in this world – I am even thinking of making it a series of stand alone short stories with the same characters visiting different planets – but at the same time I do wonder if it is worth the time and effort. I have other stories that are ‘short’ already written to be edited, so needless to say tackling a story of this size will be a rather long process.

Now I have a feeling this conundrum is one lots of you writers out there can sympathise with in your own way. Whether you have too little time due to other hobbies or too little energy due to family or work, a story of novel-length is daunting and scary to begin with and quite frankly a lot of work and self-doubt. Meanwhile other story ideas will pull at you at the same time too.

So I wonder how you fellow writers go about this. Do you put this type of larger story than you’re used to to the side – whether you write short stories or are a novelist and suddenly find yourself writing a book series – because it feels too daunting and/or time/energy-consuming or do you in fact fully dive in and see where it leads regardless? Or do you have a different process altogether?

I’m really curious to hear about your experiences and your thoughts on this and any advice you have is welcome!


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