Okay, not all reviews can be 5 stars, that would be an unrealistic expectation.
Quite often, the most valuable reviews aren’t those full of unambiguous adulation. When properly worded, well-meant and constructive criticism can be quite helpful to any writer that is determined to grow as an author, even if the review is only for 4 stars or less.
One of the latest reviews for The Haircut got me thinking about story length. How many words a story has when it’s finished isn’t always within the author’s control, but when you begin outlining or drafting that new brainchild, you at least have an idea of the ballpark your story will be in.
Generally, stories are classified into a few categories as far as word count goes: (wikipedia)
|Novel||over 40,000 words|
|Novella||17,500 to 40,000 words|
|Novelette||7,500 to 17,500 words|
|Short story||under 7,500 words|
At roughly 11,000 words, The Haircut falls nicely into the novelette category. This was a choice I had made at the onset, to end up between 10- and 12,000 words.
This choice bears a few consequences.
As highly regarded the principle show, don’t tell may be among writers, being succinct in your descriptions is a great way to trim those excess words and paragraphs from your manuscript.
Wouldn’t The Haircut have been a better story at 25,000 words? Or 50,000? Who knows.
I could have added a lot more background of every character, sure. I could have had them reminisce their childhood, I could have revealed their inner dialogues and conflicts, or showed my reader a lot more in places where I chose to tell, for the sake of brevity.
Every story deserves to be told, and I am convinced that it is often the story that searches for and finds an author, rather than the other way around. Once the two have found each other, it is in the author’s hands. His or her choices, skills, and experience play a key role in how the story will eventually turn out.
Not every story would work well as a full-length novel; some stories would be done a disservice if their author tried to cram them in a 3,000-word format.
“My main complaint is the length. Although it is a fully formed short-story it could be so much more. I’d like to know more about Lucy’s condition. And what’s the real deal with Arron? He’s got issues that weren’t sufficiently fleshed out.”
That said, The Haircut wanted to be a novelette, and that’s what I wrote. So indeed, that means I had to make some sacrifices. Aaron and Elbe’s backstory is indeed a fascinating one; so is Lucy’s journey up to the point where she met and fell in love with Elbe. But my characters tend to haunt me in my sleep, so I’m confident that future stories will raise the tip of the veil a little higher.
p.s. I’m still very happy with this review, of course 😀
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