Monday, March 7, 2011

Paranoia over publishing stories that are "too short"

There seems to be widespread paranoia in the writing community about publishing stories that are "too short."  I would be a rich woman if I had a nickel every time I came across an author that has said "I won't publish anything under X number of words."  Somehow they have already figured out in their mind what is and is not acceptable to sell.

My theory (although this could be totally bogus) is that this mindset arises from our schooling days.  Years of having to write essays that were at least a certain word count pounds into our brain that longer, wordier works are preferable to shorter, concise ones.  Publishing a work that is below a certain word count not only would result in low sales but you could also get an F too.

Now, in all fairness, I will admit that my longer novellas sell better than my short stories.  So there is definitely something to be said for readers wanting to get the most bang for their buck.  But, on the flip side, I think it is the reader who should decide what their acceptable limit is, not the writer.  So long as you are upfront about how long your work is, why not try and experiment with a variety of lengths?

The tagline for the new Kindle Singles section is works of fiction "expressed at their natural length."  I really like the way they phrased that.  A story should be as long as it needs to be in order to be told well.  So what if that means 500 words or 500,000 words?  One of the best things about being an independent author is that you are not constrained by what others want you to write.  There should never be any pressure to artificially inflate a story in order to meet a quota.

5 comments:

  1. Agreed. To be honest, if I read a good short story I'll probably reread it there and then (I like to see how it ticks) so I actually get more for my money...

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  2. I find I often reread a short story when I recommend it to friends. Just to relive what they will be experiencing =)

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  3. Alain, I like that tagline for the Kindle Singles too.
    It reminds me of something I read in Stephen King's On Writing (one of two must-read books on writing, IMO): "omit unnecessary words."

    Shana Hammaker
    Twelve Terrifying Tales for 2011

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  4. Today I heard back from a blog reviewer I sent three of my short stories too. She told me she couldn't finish them because they were "too short." The irony of her statement made me chuckle.

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  5. Alain are you kidding me???
    Who was it, cause I need to know to stay away from that bozo!

    Shana Hammaker
    Twelve Terrifying Tales for 2011

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