The Long and Short of It (Where It is Writing)

One of the many things I’m currently juggling is completing the outline for Water Fall. It’s actually mostly finished, but my method of outlining has it’s own idiosyncrasies, which will undoubtedly be the subject of their own post some day soon. But today’s subject is more straightforward: Length. 

When you sit down with an eighty to hundred point beat outline in front of you the thought that you’re going to try and turn all that into a fully fleshed out novel/script/screenplay/whatever can be more than a little daunting. Water Fall is my third crack at writing a novel and the scope of the project is still intimidating, doubly so because it has to keep in mind, expand on and complete things started in Heat Wave. It’s a lot to keep in the air and I have a feeling that I’m going to wind up doing a lot more correcting and rewriting, just in the first draft, than I had to do with Heat Wave. That’s not a bad thing, but it can sometimes be overwhelming. 

But there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction when a long project is finished, and you can sit back (for about ten seconds, at least) and say, “Yes! I have accomplished something.” 

On the other hand, you might expect short stories to be much simpler to write. You just sit down and toss off a couple of thousand words and make sure you don’t contradict yourself in that short span of time, right? 

Well, not so much. For one thing, keeping a short story short is more difficult than it might seem at first glance. Two of the short stories I planned for this summer wound up far exceeding the length I expected of them – both #63 and Shadows and Brightmoor were supposed to be one installment. However, I really don’t want to publish anything too much over 5000 words in a single post, not only because I don’t want to overload people with the Wall of Text o’ Doom but because I simply cannot write that much, plus two other posts for a week, and get it out in good time with good quality. 

For another thing, short stories have little to no time to be leisurely. You can’t putter around when introducing your characters, setting or conflict. Things have to go from minute one or you’re going to wind up with a novella rather than a short story. Finding places to squeeze in all the detail you might want (or need) in your story can be daunting. 

Somewhere in the middle of that is the novella. I might try writing one of those sometime soon, but currently have no plans to work on one before the end of Water Fall sometime next year. But I suspect if you were to try it you’d find it to be somewhere between full novel and short story – just long enough to be intimidating, but short enough that you’ll still feel pressed for space. Fun, no? 

Writing is the use of words. You have to know them, use them sparingly and with maximum impact and keep with them until the job is done. No matter what the scope of your story, your building blocks are the same. There’s a saying among management circles at the library where I work: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” 

The same is true of all stories: They’re written one word a time. 

Keep that in mind, love your words and no matter what kind of story you’re working on, at least the work will be a joy.