Monday, January 28, 2013

What exactly are you writing?

Have you ever had a story that seemed to have so much potential, but it just wasn't long enough to make a novella or novel-length book?

If so, you've probably read every possible blog post, writer's help book, and watched every author interview on how to make your writing longer. (Add subplots, add extraneous characters, explain everything twice, give details about the most mundane aspects...not!)

If you've done all of that and the story is still too short, there are a few options.
Option A: Roll up the manuscript and use it as a fly swatter.
Option B: Reinvent the story completely. (Try a different time or place, or explore parts of the story that you didn't think were important. Maybe they're hiding plot points in the details!)
Option C: Write other stories of the same type. When you have enough, put them together as a collection. (That should make one substantial fly swatter!)

In all seriousness though, this is exactly the problem I'm encountering with my own writing. I've got a story that's as finished, expanded, expounded, plotted, and detailed as it can possibly be... and it's only 84,000 words long. As a random number that sounds like a lot, but in book terms, it's barely scraping by as a novella.

How have I fixed this? Long story short (excuse me while I recover from tripping over that pun), I haven't fixed it. I started writing another story, which is currently at 124,000 words.

The upside to this is that once I finish, I can start sending the longer story off to agents. The downside is that, if I get turned down for this one too, then I'll have confirmation: it's quality that was lacking, not just quantity.

Don't worry; this isn't a pity party. Maybe someday I'll take my own advice about the shorter story, but for now I'm having too much fun writing 124,000 words about modern-day Amazons!

Okay, now that everyone has sat patiently through my rant - or scanned until you saw 'prompt' in a paragraph, here's a prompt to help you get started on your next writing project. Remember, the length isn't as important as writing well and frequently. If you write on a consistent schedule, your story will end up being the right length for the characters and plot lines.

Without further ado, here's a bookend prompt. It's by, for, and about writers. What will you make of it? Let me know whether this prompt (or any of them, really) get to short story, novella, or novel length!

Left Bookend: She glared at the blank page and seriously considered banging her head against the desk in frustration. This had seemed so much easier when...

Right Bookend: With a sense of relief, she typed out those two scariest of words "the" and "end". Exhaustion set in as she realized that this story needed a sequel.

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