The Long Short Story

I’ve been working lately on the short story I finished over a month ago and set aside for a cooling period. It’s been frustrating me because I have piles of notes and the nights where I work on it, the story doesn’t get any longer. I feel it’s getting better, bit by bit, but there’s always more rework to do and it’s been weighing me down. I’ll get a solid one or two thousand word edit done, but the word count doesn’t budge. Or it shrinks. It can be demoralizing.

Tonight I stopped, sat back and looked at it, and I remembered that this “short story” is over ten thousand words long. It has a pile of characters, a pile of concepts, and a pile of thematic undertones. I’m starting to realize that this story is feeling less like a long short story and more like one-sixth of a novel, which puts things into perspective.

Every time I rewrite a scene to excise what wasn’t working and put in things that I think do work, I have to go over the entire thing and see where this new scene is contradicting the story in other places, or where things which were set up previously are either modified or no longer relevant. It’s a hefty editing process and I hadn’t realized it because I’d been approaching it as just another short piece, which it clearly isn’t.

I’m realizing that this particular piece is simply going to require more time and effort than simply double that of a story half the length. Much like a 60,000 word novel probably requires more than ten times the effort of a 6,000 word story. The bigger you go, the more complex it gets, the more things you have to consistently juggle.

This is fine, it just requires more patience than I’m used to showing a work. The instinct is often to kick the story until it rolls over and concedes defeat, but this one is going to need a softer touch.

Bit by bit, word by word. Patience and time.

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