1. LucyP
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    LucyP Member

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    When does a short story become a novel?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by LucyP, Nov 8, 2009.

    Hi.
    I hope this isn't a stupid question. I am working on a new short story. I got the first draft done and now I am not only reworking some of it, I am adding quite considerable amounts. What were minor Characters are finding a little more life, etc. Do you come to a point where you say, 'hang on, this is turning into a novel.'
    What is my best guideline to know which way this is to go. I have got to the 6000 word mark at the moment. Do I revise down or up.
    I hope this post makes some sense to someone. Thanks
     
  2. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    I've seen some online publishers that take short stories up to 7500 words, any longer than that though your going to have a hard time getting it published. Some people take up 10000 words, but they always state that they will only take exceptional works at that length (meaning better than everything they already have on their site).

    Right the story as long as you need it to be, but bear in mind there's always word limits to satisfy when trying to get stuff out there.
     
  3. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Even at 6000 words, it's still at least ten times too short to be a novel. If you are finding that the story benefits from having certain characters or situations expanded, then it may be worth rewriting with the goal of turning it into a novel. If, on the other hand, you are finding that the story is complete at 7-8k words, it would probably be a better idea to revise it down to around 5000 words, which is a more publisher-friendly size (bear in mind that if you publish, it will most likely be in a magazine or journal, rather than a book).
     
  4. UnknownBearing
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    UnknownBearing Contributing Member

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    When you write 50,000 words.
     
  5. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    With short stories, minor characters don't find a little more life. Not that they're not interesting, but the structure and word limits make it very difficult to accomplish.

    If you want to sell it as a short story, cutting rather than adding would be the way to go.

    If it is destined to be a novel, then you're better off keeping your ideas but begin plotting it all out and beginning again rather than trying to expand a short story to 10 or 15 times its original length. If at all possible, avoid the novella length (midway between short story and novel) as there are few markets for this length of work (except maybe for romance ebook formats)

    Just my two cents.

    Terry
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A novel is not just a short story with a pituitary condition. A short story has a simpler plot structure to maintain a tight focus. Novels are usually constructed with a greater number of characters, and feature multiple interrelated plots. Chharacter development is emphasized in a novel, but a short story usually either deals with a snapshot of the characters over a short time span, or a single pivotal event transforming one or more characters.
     
  7. Ghosts in Latin
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    Ghosts in Latin Senior Member

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    I remember hearing once that a short-story was anything you can read in under three hours.
     
  8. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd say that by most estimates, that would not be accurate. Say a person reads 200 words per minute--then in three hours they'd have read 36,000 words, the equivalent of about 7 or 8 short stories.
     
  9. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Revise down if possible. Something around the 4-5k mark is much more easier for magazines to publish because it doesn't take up too much space. A lot of magazines have a set number of pages in mind which is why they can't afford to take chances of very long pieces unless they are of exceptional quality. It's best to stay in a more reasonable range in order to maximize your chances for publication.
     
  10. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Down. After the short story is as good as it can get, then think of if you can expand it into a novel.
     
  11. Nackl of Gilmed
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    Nackl of Gilmed Member

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    Short or full-length story is a ground-up commitment. The definition I've stuck with since hearing it somewhere, is that a short story contains a single plotline with no unnecessary details. Everything in there is building towards the same conclusion. The full-length story has room for subplots.
     
  12. LucyP
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    LucyP Member

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    I think I can go with Terry's thoughts on this. I am finding some characters a little more interesting and they seem to be 'speaking' a little more and there might be room for a little exploration. I might need to take the charcters and look at their backgrounds. Perhaps as he says, plot for a novel and see where it takes me.
     
  13. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    I hope this helps....

    Chuck Palahniuk started writing FIGHT CLUB as a short story, (it actually features in the book as chapter 7 I believe) but he quickly realised he should just let it expand, and the book is now pretty famous and successful.
     
  14. Litwolf
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    Litwolf New Member

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    I take a Fiction Writing class at my college and all of our work has to be short stories, for the sake of the class. I started working on a story for the class just a few weeks ago. I ended up really liking the idea and wanted to develop it further. But I had hit the 25 paper marker, which sent up a red flag for a story I had to turn into my professor. So I had to cut everything very short, give it a crappy Hallmark ending, and send it off. All of the class said that the story had started off really strong and that they thought this would be a better novella, or even novel.

    So, if it feels more natural to let it grow and evolve into a novel, then don't stomp down that idea and force it to be a short story because it just won't work. Keep writing and see where it takes you.
     
  15. LucyP
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    LucyP Member

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    Thanks for those comments, Spirij and litwolf.
    I have developed a deeper interest, or curiosity in two particular characters and left the short story to oneside and began looking at deeper character development on this pair. I am not even sure the short story plot will even be involved. It's like these two have decided that I need to know more about them and they will develop the story themselves. One was the antagonist in the short, so developments could prove interesting to me.
    Does that all sound a bit odd, or has anyone else had the characters take over and decide how things will shape up? :)
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Of course not. Characters are a creation of your own imagination. They do not really think, or make decisions, or have emotions. Their existence is only a projection of te traits and behavioral rules you impose on them, interpreted through your own experiences and biases.

    Consciously, or unconsciously, you are the only one making them act, speak, choose, etc.
     
  17. LucyP
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    LucyP Member

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    lol yes Cog, that is kind of what I meant, I did mean as a projection
     
  18. Little Miss Edi
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    Little Miss Edi Contributing Member

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    This is mostly number crunching for the sake of it. It might help and I've got time on my hands :-D

    Apparently: according to the great source that is wiki (¬_¬) the answer to 'when does a short story become a novel?' is 40,000 words.

    But in between you've got the 'novellette' 7,500 - 17,499 and the 'novella' 17,500-40k. So you can always progress through the stages and see where it ends up landing! :p

    If you're trying to write a short story purposefully keep it short, sweet and perfectly concise and aim to stop around the 5k. If not, then it's all just evolution.
     
  19. Robert Lipscombe
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    Robert Lipscombe Member

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    I would have said that a short story [from a simple prose poem of one page through to about 20,000 words of fully fledged narrative] ..can become a novella [maximum of 50,000 words]...and that a novel is anything bigger.
    However, word count is a useless guide to the question: 'when does my short story become a novel?'
    Here's the answer: your short story becomes a novel when the environments of your story become as central, or nearly central to the narrative as the characters, setting and situation - or, conversely, when the characters, setting and situation become as interesting;ly cental to the narrative as the environments of the story.
    Environments can be physical [a room, a cell, a pond], social [a team, an office, a shoal of fish], economic [the credit crunch, a firm going bust, a strike at work, losing your job, starting a new business], cultural [a wedding party, an office training and bonding week-end away, a family breakdown involving children], and of course psychological [a guy is going mad, Hamlet is wondering whether to kill Claudius, Holden Caulfield is growing up] or spiritual.
    So, in a nutshell, a short story is a written narrative [probably including dialogue] where the focus is almost entirely on character in a setting in a situation, ...or where the focus is almost entirely on environments and little exploration is given into character and situation.
    Where you have both, so that each of the two components have similar weight, you have a novel.
    So, typically, Falling Man [thinking off the cuff here] - by Delillo, I seem to recall, is as much about New York, and people's emotional/psychological environments after 9/11 as it is a love story and a study of the marriage bond. For this reason it is a novel, although word count obviously proves it so [if you want to put it that way].
    Hope this helps.
    RL
     

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