The Incredible Expanding Short Story

Less is more. Brevity is the soul of wit. The shorter, the better. Etcetera, etcetera.

Let’s face it, the conventional wisdom out there tells us to keep it short. In general, it’s good advice. It’s certainly something that was drilled into me as a newspaper reporter during that stage of my life and career. (Newspapers – remember those?) Most websites and magazines that publish fiction encourage writers to keep it short, and many put 5,000 words as a cutoff point for story length.

I recently completed the first draft of a horror story at about 5,500 words and just knew that I needed to cut it down during the revision process, even though there were a couple aspects of the story that were still going to require a bit of fleshing out. I was certain that there were other parts that could be chopped down substantially. And there were.

But here’s the thing. As I worked to develop some of the key points that I thought could be addressed in passing, some very vivid and important scenes started to come to life. When you find yourself flying along, coming up with arresting images and vivid portrayals of characters’ emotions, you damn well should go with it and worry about story length later. Those moments don’t come around as frequently as I would like, and they are precious.

So, I’m now about to start the second revision of a short story that has crossed over into the realm of the novelette. There’s still some tightening to be done, and possibly some expansion. In the end, every story should be as long as it needs to be. Sometimes that means a 500 word flash piece, sometimes that means a 3,000 word short story, sometimes a novel, sometimes a trilogy, etc., etc.

With that, I’ll sign off before this blog post gets way too long!