How Long Should My Story Be?

 

 

by Cátia Isabel Silva

After finishing your stories, how many times do you find yourself wondering if it’s too long? Perhaps you instead wonder if it might be too short? This is something that bothers a lot of writers and keeps on raising many a doubt. Technically speaking, and in order to be practical, a story should not have more than 30,000 words (or it would most likely be a novel), and in fact, a really long story might make it harder for you to get it published. Actually, ultra-short stories are currently very popular and you’ll find many a magazine where you might be able to publish them.

But the truth remains as such: there is no ideal size for a story. You’re not selling fabric! However, there are some tips you should indeed keep in mind:

1. There is no story without conflict
A story isn’t finished without solving the conflict, so, forget how many pages you’ve already written and focus yourself on these points: contextualize your story, develop your characters, present a conflict and solve/resolve it.
Don’t be afraid to write a short story, that turns out, in the end, to be a very long one. You’ll find the time to improve it, most likely afterwards and cut out all of the stuff that doesn’t really matter, but first, you’ll need to develop it as much as you can in order to make it good.

2. If it is boring as is, it’s too long
Again, forget the number of pages. If the story seems boring, it’s already too much. A good story will make you lose track of time, not have you looking at your watch every two minutes. IF it’s not interesting, put it aside.

3. Too much ‘blablabla’
Never write something just so you can fill a page. Write freely while you’re building the story, but in the end read through it again and evaluate each sentence and idea. Were they necessary? Do they bring something new, important or really beautiful to your narrative? If you think something does, keep it, otherwise cut it out or rid the work of it.

4. Emotional experience
Each reader looks for something different from a story he or she chooses to read, although, if a person chooses to read fiction, it’s likely that they seek some kind of emotional experience. Your story needs to make the readers feel something.

5. Why choose this story among thousands?
Let’s face it: people do not have time to spare these days. Most of us are always running about, so if you want someone to stop and read your story, it must be worth it. Confused? Just read it critically and find out if your ideas, sentences, every single detail of it is good enough for a reader. Think of your story as a sort of reward for your reader, who is tired from another long day at work, and just wants to relax and feel all sorts of emotions.

 

 

 

Guest post contributed by by Cátia Isabel Silva. Catia is a Portugal native who works in the school system. In 2010, she wrote New World as her debut novel.

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7 thoughts on “How Long Should My Story Be?”

  1. I worry about my story lengths to the point of being OCD. I always worry that my stories aren’t long enough. I try to be as brief as I can with telling the story, but feel like there’s something missing. Maybe I’m obsessing about it too much. I compare my work to others, which is not good to begin with. I see how long their stories are and wonder if I’m doing something wrong. I know in the end, length doesn’t matter. As long as the story has some kind of conflict and can evoke an emotional response, then it’s a good story.

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