|Please tell me you see it. Please.|
My longest manuscript thus far is cappin’ around 500 pages. Maybe around 250k words. The usual accepted length for a “novel” (ie: not a novella or a short story) is around 50k words and at least over 100 pages. Of course, this is arbitrary, but please humor this standard for the duration of this post.
Going off that, I can write novels. Seriously. It’s pretty much all I CAN write. Tell me to write 100+ pages on some story and by the Prophet of the Garbage Disposal I will do it. Hell I ‘ll write you 150 pages. While we’re at it, have 200!
Ladies and gentlemen and all humans in-between, I can only write novels. This is almost hard fact. I’ve had the task twice in my life of writing a short story that could not go “over” 30 or so pages. Each time I wrote about 32 and was given a pass on it. I was so unhappy because I TOTALLY COULD’VE KEPT GOING. What do you mean you want me to condense my story into only 30 or less pages?? What is this? I don’t even…
About seven or so summers ago I had a really great idea for a short story, or even a novella if I could make it last that long. I didn’t see it passing 50 pages, anyway. I wrote the whole story that summer, and at the time it was one of my best works.
It also ended up being one of my longest. 100 pages and over 50k. Definitely in “novel” territory.
Here’s the thing, kids. I can’t condense my ideas. I just can’t. Even if I start with something really simplistic like “George eats an apple”, by the time I’m done,, George has gone into the kitchen, baked that apple in the most delicious apple pie ever, shot a rabbit out the window, got the mail, was surrounded by SWAT while out getting the mail, was arrested for suspected terrorism, found out later that the rabbit he shot was actually the Easter Bunny, and meanwhile his sad, neglected pie is burned. Cue fade out on his house burning down because the oven was left on. ALL BECAUSE OF AN APPLE. And that’s just what I made up right now, so imagine what it’s like when I’ve already planned out other crap and then sit down to write it.
This isn’t just limited to fiction either. When it came to college papers, it was either do or die. I would often reach the point where I was so desperate for more to write about that, to reach the mandatory length to get the grade, that I would suddenly have a great idea…and the next thing I know? Two pages over. I never understood how everyone else seemed to manage cutting down their ideas. It’s like gardening, yo. You get a letter from your homeowner’s association that you’re freakin’ roses are overgrowing your fence and prickling joggers on their way by in the morning, so would you PLEASE go out and trim them back? You’re told that they have to be cut back by at least the fence’s height. Well, okay. So you grab you your shears and go out there to trim some bleepin’ roses. Of course, these are your beautiful roses. Your prize-winning roses. Just cutting off the dead stems feels like heresy. But you do it. You cut back and cut back and admire what you did. You even rake up and compost the debris. And then you realize that you only cut off about six inches all around and d’oh some stupid jogger just got lacerated again by blue-ribbon red-roses. Good job.
Ironically I love reading short stories, and not just because I have a short attention span for the written word (that isn’t my own). I guess maybe it’s slight jealousy. The fact that Shirley Jackson could make me laugh and cry in The Lottery (my favorite short story, go read it if you haven’t, I’ll wait right here…) in so few pages was amazing. And maybe that’s just her craft, who knows? As writers, our talents lie in different abilities, and that’s what makes us awesome. I mean, I like to think I’m a pretty awesome writer any day, but that’s only in full-length novels. My job I’ve set up for myself is being able to drag you in from the first page and then taking you on a 500 page clusterfrack of WTF and OMG until you come out at the end going “oh mah gawd ty hildred!!!” and I sit there beaming like a mo-fo. That same ride on one of my short stories would be like going through a half-assed haunted house: lame, boring, and you didn’t even get any candy at the end. (I’m sorry).
So now I have a question for all of you who may (or may not be?) reading this: what is your poison? Are you too wordy to be confined to short stories? Are you too succinct to write a full novel? Are you so badass you can do both AND bake that apple pie without burning the house down? Or would you just rather write a term paper and meet the bare minimum requirements…you’ll read everyone’s stories afterwards…
Please tell me,, I need to know. I need to know whether to bow at your feet in literary mercy or not.
That said, I smell smoke in the kitchen. I hope this doesn’t mean the SWAT is coming.
PS: This post was only supposed to be about three paragraphs long. OOPS I DID IT AGAIN, LOL.