About four times in my writing career, I’ve come up with really great ideas for stories, and I think they’d work at under ten-thousand words, which is what is usually the maximum length for a short story. But as I think about this idea and the story I plan to write with it, or as I try to write it and I run into problems, I realize something important: it has to be longer than a short story. There’s just no way I’m going to be able to put everything I want in this short story within such a small range. This is going to need to be much longer.

In other words, it’s going to need to be a novel.

For me, this is always frustrating to some degree. I have this idea, and I think that maybe I can get it written within a few weeks. And then I realize there’s more than one direction this story can go. And I want to add in so much material, which is impossible with just ten-thousand words. And yet I don’t want to give up any of it! So I cross it off my short story list and put it on my novel list, even though I realize that it might be years before I get around to writing it.

It’s even more frustrating when I’ve already attempted to write this particular idea as a short story. I wrote a story about a man who gets resurrected from death through science. It was great. But it had so much in it, so much hinted at within its pages. When I lent it to a friend, he told me that it would work great as a novel or even as a movie. After a lot of thought, I realized he was right.

And remember “the short story I’ve been struggling with on and off with for over a year”? Also known as “The Murderer’s Legacy”, “Miranda’s Tempest”, and “Strong’s Trial”, I could not get that story to work for the life of me. And with every draft and every change, I felt I was getting closer and at the same time getting farther away from the story that this story should be. Eventually I figured out a way to make this story work, but it meant turning this into a full-length novel. I was just like, “Fine. I’m not going to think of another way this story could work anytime soon, so let’s just keep it as is and hope I get around to it sooner rather than later.”

And last night, I was thinking of outlining this idea for a short story that I wanted to write. I sat down in front of my laptop to start outlining, and just as I put the order of events together in my head, I thought, No way can I get all this in within even twenty-thousand words. This has to be a novel. Aw dammit. Oh well, the story calls for it. What am I going to do?

Yeah, what am I going to do? How many ideas for short stories am I going to have that will eventually need to be turned into novels that might take years to get around to because that’s how busy I get sometimes? I hate it. I wish there was a way I could make these stories work as short stories. Especially that one I was going to work on yesterday, it was going to examine the Israeli-Palestinian conflict!

But it’s just not going to happen. I can’t fit these stories within ten or twenty-thousand words. They won’t work then, they won’t have the same punch if they were novels. There’s a reason I never got a version of Miranda’s Tempest/The Murderer’s Legacy/Strong’s Trial I liked, because I was writing it with a view of making it shorter than it needed to be.

And you know what? Sometimes you just can’t control the story like that. As an author, you have a lot of control over your story, you are its God in a sense. But at the same time, the story has some control over you. Events go certain ways you never thought about, characters act in a different way you thought they would and take things in a different direction. Authors of all types and experience know that this is a thing and that it happens a lot. And when it does, you just have to go with the flow or your story won’t turn out the way you hope.

I just hope someday I have more time than I do now to write, that I can get to these stories sooner rather than later. Perhaps someday I will. I know several writers who started writing part-time and through hard work, perseverance, and a bit of luck, became full-time writers able to devote their full energies to writing. That could be me someday. I’m still young and early in my career. A few more books, some more advertising and reviews. You never know what’s going to happen.

I do wish I had less of these ideas where I think they’ll be great short stories, but later on I realize they need to be novels. As I said above, it’s annoying when that happens.

Do you ever have this problem with a story? How do you feel about it when it happens?

When you do end up writing these stories at the right length, does it normally work out?

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Comments
  1. Adan Ramie says:

    This has happened to me a few times, Rami, and every time, it puts a crimp in my plans. Short stories are easy to put your heart into — after all, you can spend a few weeks with them, and then you’re done. No harm, no wasted time. But a novel? A novel takes real perseverance. You have to go the extra mile. Sometimes, as with my WIP, Maladaptation, you have to go that extra mile five or ten times to get it right.

    As troublesome as it might be, I think the only way out of such a situation is through it. Write a chunk here and there until it’s finished, or shelve it for the next time you start to feel guilty about all those novel ideas piling up and decide to get one done!

    • Considering how much research has to go into some of these stories and how much work one of them requires, I’ll have to pass on the former option and take the latter option, wait until the time is right and work on the story then. Thanks, as always for your input. I appreciate it.

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