I swear I’m not going to get overly obsessed with word count milestones, but I was reading the other day a couple of things about the ‘ideal length’ for a novel (apparently 70-100,000 words) which puts me roughly half way along. This got me to thinking, first of all, if the story feels roughly half way done. It’s hard to say, probably at least in part because I’m writing it out of order. I have the last scene written, and the opening parts of course, and then there are some indeterminately-sized holes in between. I guess mostly it feels like I have written a substantial hunk of stuff, but that there’s still at least a reasonable amount yet to do, which is probably good, at this stage.
However the ideal length article also got me to thinking about whether there is any such thing as an ideal length for a story, to begin with. Some stories take several books worth of writing to get themselves told, and yet sometimes you read a short story which is basically perfect, wouldn’t get better if expanded, and probably would get worse. Some writers give you a 600-page book and the whole thing is great, and some give you 250 pages and you’re finding bits that could really go all the way through.
What I tell students when they ask me how long their answer for an essay question should be is the tried-but-true ‘as long as a piece of string’ – write an answer as long as you need it to be to say everything you want to say. They never like that very much because mostly they’re looking to find out the height of the bar they have to scrape over, but damn it, it’s still the right answer.
I guess my main reaction to the question of ‘ideal length’ for a story (obviously leaving questions of publish-ability aside) is more or less the same.
Word Count: 44,786