P.14: The Other End of Word Counts

Two posts ago, I wrote about that frustrating moment when you write something you really like, but it comes out too long.

I forgot that there is a moment even worse in word count agony. It’s when you write something you really like, and it’s a full and complete story — and it’s too short.

As frustrating as it is to cut, it’s even more difficult to add. Adding enough words to a story to create a whole new scene or more changes a story in a way cutting rarely will. When a story feels finished, I never never want to add. But you can cut in ways that don’t change the spirit of a story, and often will make that story better.

Normally, it wouldn’t matter too much — if you have a story that’s not right for one outlet, you can send it to another — but it is a bigger pickle when you specifically wrote that story for a submission call.

Like I did with this one.


Thankfully, the deadline for the submission call isn’t for a while, so I have time to cook up some other part of the story, but it’ll probably take me almost as much time to figure that out as it did to write it in the first place — because I have to figure out what that new component will be and where it could possibly fit, to make sure it feels like a natural part of the story that was always supposed to be there.

Back to the drawing board for me, trying to think up possible new scenes and figuring out ways to squeeze them in.

P.12: Eek, Word Counts

Here’s what I imagine is a common, painful dilemma for any short story writer.

I have a story I started a while ago, then got stuck at for a long time. It was one of the more action-packed, plot-focused shorts I’ve written. Most of my stories are more character-driven thinking pieces, so the fact that I wrote this story, with this world, was a pleasant surprise.

But I couldn’t finish it — and sat on it for way longer than I’d care to admit, even if I was about 75% done. I tried to finish it on numerous occasions, but kept getting tripped up. I just couldn’t bridge the scene I was stuck on to the ending.

I recently came back to it and skipped the scene I was having trouble with. I decided my real problem was the ending, so I wrote that, hoping the bridge would come to me.

It did, but now I have a new problem.

Word count.

The ending I wrote was more intricate and way longer than I thought it would be. It’s in a good way, giving the story some of the pieces it was really missing before — missing pieces I didn’t see.

It made my story better, but now I’m at that nearly-a-novelette bubble that’s difficult to publish, without a whole ton I could cut (and I can be a merciless cutter when I want to be).

Part of me thinks I should flesh it out a little more and turn it into a novelette. It would be no easier to publish, but maybe worth it if I’m on the cusp of a novelette anyway.

But then I had an even crazier idea…. is this secretly a novella or a novel?

I have to figure that out. I love the world and the characters, and there’s a lot more that they could do and explore…. so it’s a difficult choice.

I didn’t expect that this would be the story to do this to me… but it did, and I love that it did, even if it’s causing me problems and sucking up way more time than I’d like.

I think it’s worth it. Ultimately, this is a good problem to have.

We’ll see where it goes. I’m going to polish it as a short story first, then reassess.