1. MelissaLynne
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    MelissaLynne Member

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    Short stories; what happens when the short story turns out too long?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by MelissaLynne, Oct 21, 2009.

    I've been trying to complete short stories but everytime I do I go overboard and they become way too long! Usually its difficult for me to write a short story because I can never seem to find a stopping place and before I know it, the short story becomes a very short novel! I know I should just let my writing take its course but then I'm left with too many unfinished ideas and before I know it my simple story turns into a project! Does this happen to anybody? Do you ever mean to write a short story but then it turns into a series of events you didn't plan on in the first place?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It can easily happen with a short story. The trick is to whittle the story down to its essentials. The biggest challenge with short story is keeping a tight focus, and not to go off on tangents.

    Keep track of those tangents, though. They can become the seeds of other stories.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Exactly how long is your story? Like Cog said, just focus on the main conflict and don't introduce new conflicts that contribute nothing to the main conflict.

    Also, it's better to have a small number of characters in short stories. Focusing on more characters takes up more space.
     
  4. Henry The Purple
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    Henry The Purple Active Member

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    If it goes significantly overboard, consider developing it into a novel. Short novels are the norm for newcomers into the world of literary marketing. That is, of course, assuming there is enough substance to work with. If not, trim, trim, trim anything unnecessary to cut down your story to sizeable length.
     
  5. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    MelissaLynne,

    It is often helpful with short fiction, to know the right place to start a story and also have a specific ending in mind, along with a few of the main points in the conflict/events that will take the reader there.

    If you don't go that route, go back and review your story, reading to determine what is essential, and what is not, to tell the story. Very often there is much that can be cut and still have a great story.

    Terry
     
  6. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    I totally know what you mean. My first few shorts were around 10,000 words, way outside what any publisher would take for a short.

    Then after some serious hard work and thinking I got a story that was around 500 words! Then I turned it in to my teacher and he said "nah this is too short, I wanted two pages, everything else is perfect though!" I was pissed that was so freaking hard! I did what every one else has suggested, I broke it down to the bare essentials. It's incredibly tough to master but it can be a ton of fun if you like a challenge. Like you my ideas always get way over complicated and work better for novels. For me the trick was to keep the focus on a single character with a single objective. Adding anything else has always caused me to go overboard.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Unfortunately, word count ranges are a reality you have to live with. Sometimes the story itself is too large or small for that range. In order to make it fit, it has to become a different story.

    Maybe the new story is close enough to the original that you can think of it as essentially the same. Hopefully, you can nearly always transform it while keeping the essence. Sometimes you just need to set a great story aside and start over. But the story that is perfect at 500 words may be presented to a different market.

    The more you write, the better sense you will have as to how much story you have, and you can think of variations at the conceptual stage that will fit better. That's often easier than adjusting the story after you've finished the draft.
     
  8. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    I totally agree with and that's pretty much how I do things. It's frustrating that my last story hit just over that 4500 word mark, but I just look for publishers that tolerate a larger word count. I think I've gotten it down to a point where I know when a story will be long, but not short.

    So what I've is I've started reading more short stories, which is something I haven't really spent much time doing (I'm a novel guy). I try to keep track of the content I've read and try to understand what the author left out and why.
     
  9. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    It sounds like you don't know why you aer writing the story when you begin, and you don't figure it out until almost the end. So all that writing time was to figure out where the story should go.

    Now, ask what is the main conflict of the story and what is the point of the story, that is what is the message, the theme. Then strip the story down so it focuses on that main conflict and message.

    Before you begin your next story, know the beginning and end first. See if that helps.
     

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