OtterMan's picture
OtterMan from New Jersey, near Philadelphia USA is reading Ringworlds Children January 20, 2014 - 1:13pm

I have written several stories that I've tried to do as independent sections of what I'm intending to be a larger work. My thought was that they could be used as chapters or serialized when I have a better handle on where I'm going with this. A recent post here refered to a site looking for story submissions and included on the site a rate based on word count. This much for 5000 words, so much for 5 to 20 thousand words, and 20 to 50 thousand words. 

 

I never paid that much attention to how many words I was using, but going back and checking I find that most of what I've written runs somewhere around 2500 words, you know, give or take. After that my story kind of runs out of gas. While I have thought stories up in my head for a long time, it is only recently I've actually tried to write any of it down. I can't even imagine putting 50 thousand words together and having it make sense. 

 

I am wondering if anyone else has found a kind of natural word count in their efforts and if this count has changed over time as you've become more proficient at writting? Is there a balance point between a story too short to be interesting at all and one too long to keep a reader interested for that long?

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore January 20, 2014 - 3:17pm

I prefer reading shorter short stories. When I'm digging through a collection or anthology, I find myself kinda grumbling and wanting to skip around when a longer story hits. Over 5000 words and it had better be frigging incredible.

When writing, my personal comfort zone is 2000-3500 words, and my best stories have gotten longer the longer I've been at it. I came from a songwriting and screenwriting background, obsessed with word economy.

50K words would be on the short side for a novel. Fight Club is somewhere around that. I've never found word count to be the daunting aspect of writing a novel, but rather, the three-year investment it takes me to get there: all the plotting and subplotting and character arcs and psychological milestones regarding the optimal time to reveal certain information and such (my novels are 72K and 75K words). I think most novelists probably get 50K words into their story before realizing they're only halfway through telling it and wondering how the hell they're gonna wrap things up in any foreseeable future. And then the result is too slow of a build-up and too fast of a climax (make your own joke here).

L.W. Flouisa's picture
L.W. Flouisa from Tennessee is reading More Murakami January 20, 2014 - 3:10pm

My limit, without doing a short story colkection that follows a thematic arc, tends to average between 3k to 7.5K, depending on the plotting method.

OtterMan's picture
OtterMan from New Jersey, near Philadelphia USA is reading Ringworlds Children January 21, 2014 - 7:07am

I prefer reading shorter short stories. When I'm digging through a collection or anthology, I find myself kinda grumbling and wanting to skip around when a longer story hits. Over 5000 words and it had better be frigging incredible.

I tend to read anthologies cover to cover without skipping around. That said, I think I do hold longer stories to a higher standard. Like you I prefer if I'm going to read something long, it better be worth it.

 

I came from a songwriting and screenwriting background, obsessed with word economy.

 

I do a lot of 'soft language' programming and have an eye for what's known as 'elegance' in a piece of code. I could write a single line for every function and have a verbose program that's a nightmare to debug. I can also write a very sparse program that either lacks desired features or performs poorly in other ways. There is a -just right- size to every code bundle, finding it is a bit of artistic expression for me. I posted to the 'game of threes' recently. This sentance, "Of course as a child I never realized just how precious and important it was to fall like a snowflake, to drift like a leaf blown across a pond, or like a dandelion seed on a summer breeze." has an unneeded -or- after pond and it bothered me after I had posted and reread it. 

 

I try to write initially like a firehose and just spray words out, then go back later and try to consolidate and trim. 

JEFFREY GRANT BARR's picture
JEFFREY GRANT BARR from Central OR is reading Nothing but fucking Shakespeare, for the rest of my life January 21, 2014 - 10:16am

What is 'soft language' programming?

OtterMan's picture
OtterMan from New Jersey, near Philadelphia USA is reading Ringworlds Children January 21, 2014 - 11:52am

What is 'soft language' programming?

Hard code is the under the hood stuff, Python, C++, old skoll COBAL kind of code. I use a pre-fab environment with something called 'object oriented' programming. I assign a 'label' to an 'object' then write 'rules' to tell the objects how to interact. I work in the fire alarm field, but it's the same basic set-up that's used by the building controls, elevator, and other industries.