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.