Ack! My Short Story has Grown Too Fat!

A couple of months ago, I set out to write a 5,000-word short story.  As I sat down to write today, I found that my short story had grown toward novella proportions: 13,500 words and counting.  This is a problem. 

I know I often write “long” on first drafts.  Generally between my first and second draft I trim between 30-50% of the original words (which I consider a lot of throat clearing).  The final story will usually have half the word-total I started out with.   So why does the 13,000+ words for my current story-in-progress bother me so much?  I think I’ve gotten good at estimating before I start how long a story should be in the final form, so when I set out writing the current story-in-progress, I thought I had a 5,000-word story.  I still think I have a 5,000-word story. 

Clearly I don’t have a handle on my story-in-progress.  I’m wandering around aimlessly, probably because there is something in the story I have yet to figure out.  I’m not sure what it is, however.  I think I understand the characters.  I think I understand the conflict and theme I want.  The setting, too.  I think I know where I want the plot to go.  At least I think I understand all of these.  Obviously, I don’t.

I’ve found from past experience that I am not the type of writer who can write himself out of corner—it’s simply not an effective way for me to write.  So what do I do?  That’s a good question, because I want to write this story, and I’m finding it difficult to drop it and switch to something new.  It’s a good story idea, and one I want to tell, so I’ll give it a little more time, a little more wandering, and see if I can find my way.  Otherwise, this one will have to go on the shelf for a while.


About D. Thomas Minton

Writer of speculative fiction
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6 Responses to Ack! My Short Story has Grown Too Fat!

  1. Oh man! Been there. I hate being lost in the middle of an idea. Good luck!

  2. Colum Paget says:

    Probably the story ought to be as long as it is, because there’s a lot to say in it. However, as you know there’s almost no outlets for novellas/novellettes.

    Try Giganotosaurus before you start hacking it up though. You never know.


    • I would agree with you if I felt that story really needed to be that long. Everything in me says it doesn’t. The fact that it’s not done yet, and I seem to wandering around the narrative also supports that there’s a problem.

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