The Not-So-Short Story


I’ve noticed recently that something is happening to my writing. I used to get an idea, and I’d see the way it would fit into a suitably sized chunk of words in order to create a “short story”. And if I wanted to write for a specific magazine or to a specific length, OK, I might have to cut a bit here and there (or less frequently, expand a bit), but on the whole it would work out about the length I’d first imagined, and would include the aspects of the story I’d imagined.

But the last couple of times I’ve had an idea for a piece of writing, I’ve started off with something in my head, only for it to develop all sorts of underlying themes, or new angles, which will not adhere to a specific word limit. I have characters demanding lengthy backstory, and developing a far more complex personality than would be required for a short story. And plot twists which will require far more time to set up than can possibly be accommodated in a couple of thousand words.

On the one hand, this is a wondrous thing, and I’m delighted. There’s nothing better than when a character takes off, and it’s as though he/she is telling you what happened in his/her past, or what he/she wants to say, rather than you feeling like you’re consciously ‘making it up’. On the other hand, what do I do with these ‘long-shorts’, which won’t fit any magazine’s requirements, or even be readable at the next writers’ group? Will they become long enough to turn into ‘novellas’? Or will they end up in fictional limbo, neither one thing or the other?

I tell myself it doesn’t matter. The writing is the thing. And this morning was the most productive writing session I’ve had in months, so I’m in a kind of creative glow. My only fear (because I am shallow!) is that if they have no likely outlet, will I feel sufficiently motivated to get them finished? Time will tell…


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