Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Does Size Matter?

Yesterday, while discussing writing with some Belfrites, I said something about myself I'd never known before. No one could've been more surprised!

I told them, "It takes me 1-3 months to process a book--no matter the word count. It's still a whole story."

After I blurted that out, I began to think about it. And found it was true. It takes me the same amount of time to write a 15k book as it does a 50k book.

What a revelation!

Seriously.

Kind of a depressing one, as sometimes I'd love to be able to whip out a short. Some of my friends can do one in two weeks. And maybe someday I'll get there. But I have to accept that for now, this is the way it works.

But why? It didn't seem to make any sense until I realized a story arc is a story arc no matter how big or how little. Word count comes from the story, not the other way around. Once I know the story (and this is what takes the biggest chunk of my brain capacity) the words take care of themselves quickly.

And in many ways, writing a complete story in claustrophobic word count is harder, because each and every word has to pay not only full admission price, but a handling fee as well. In a larger work you can throw in some discounted words every now and then if it gets a laugh or expands on character arc a little. But not with a short.

When I handed in Miss Behavior it was 300 words over maximum. A first for me! While writing it I had considered making it into a novella instead of a Quickie because I worried the story was too big for such measly word count. Now I had to cut some more.

In taking a good, hard look at the ms, I started slashing one word at a time--an adverb here, a redundant sentence there. And as tight as the story already was, I was amazed to find those three hundred discount words fairly easily and remove them with absolutely no impact on the story.

A story is a story. The architecture of a tiki hut is the same as a cathedral. But most people can construct their tiki huts in alot less time! I have to go back and study physics each time I start building.

What about you? Can you write a short story in less time, or is your process the same as mine?

Does size matter?

3 Comments:

Blogger Daisy Dexter Dobbs said...

It takes me a lot less time to write a short story than a novel. The reason novels take me longer is because of that gaping middle part that I know needs to be written just right so the reader doesn’t get bored and lose interest (the dreaded sagging middle dilemma--the book’s, not mine--although mine is pretty damned saggy after my holiday eating). When I start writing a story I know what I want to have happen in the beginning and at the end and have an inkling of what I’ll put the characters through in the middle, but fleshing it out and holding interest has me agonizing over that portion and avoiding it. That’s when I spend time doing everything but the writing that I should be doing. LOL

With a short story I don’t have that problem. Actually, my Caroline’s Christmas Viking book was first accepted as one of the White Hot Holiday shorts for EC, but then my editor said I needed to add more sex to bring it up to an E-rating. I’m pretty verbose--as verified by this endless comment LOL--so my stories are usually at the top range of the required word count, and this story one was no exception. She said the trouble was that she really liked the story as is and didn’t know what I could cut out to add the additional sex. So she gave me the option of keeping it as a short or adding to it and making it a novella. It was a difficult decision because I wanted to be a part of the WHH promotion, and yet I hated cutting anything out of the story because I’d already kept it tight.

In the end, I’m very happy that I reworked it into a novella, which wasn’t difficult for me to do. It works much better this way I think. I just added more banter and lots more sex. LOL This was actually the first novella-length work I’ve done and I found that I enjoyed writing a story this length, so I’ll probably do more of those in the future.

January 18, 2006 1:47 PM  
Blogger Ann Wesley Hardin said...

Ah yes, saggy middle syndrome. I used to suffer from that too, Daisy, and I'd shove anything in there just to get out of it. LOL.

Over the years, as my storytelling style cemented, I started realizing I really liked to do big splashy, action-filled beginnings, and big splashy action-filled endings. So eventually the only place left for the story was the middle *gg*.

Since then, I've calmed down a bit on the splashy stuff. But the way it all evolved has sort of trained me to keep stuff in reserve for the middle, and I find I mostly enjoy that part of the writing now.

Endings have become the bigger bugaboo lately. With Coffee, Tea or Lea? I heaped so many issues between them that I painted myself into a corner and didn't know how the heck I was going to resolve everything. I still have the scars.

It's funny how it ebbs and flows. I like novella length too, very much. But I also love to sit back and take an extensive joyride inside the heads of certain characters. Some of them are just so much darn fun to hang around with!

January 18, 2006 2:11 PM  
Blogger Trista Bane said...

Whether writing a long novel or short story, both goes pretty fast for me if I can find the time to write! What takes me forever is the revisions. I agonize more over the revisions than I do actually writing. So, yes, the longer works do take a lot longer for me.

January 20, 2006 2:27 PM  

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