Slightly ahead of schedule, I've finished writing the (cough)th draft of my short story, which, evidently, I'm thinking about calling "The Chair".
I find it a challenge to come up with titles and rather than over-think this one, I'm planning to go with the obvious. I don't want to reveal too much of what it's about just yet, because there is still editing to go, but the current cover features an armchair covered in blood. The cover needs some work, but essentially it's the perfect cover for this tale.
I'd probably be in decent company if I described my short story as a novelette. I don't know what label I'm going with for marketing purposes yet, but for a while - until I printed the monster out - I was comfortable considering it a short story.
To me, although the edges vary, anything under 1000 words is some variant of flash or micro fiction and I would have said that anything between 1000 and 30,000ish words is a short story. I think 29,500 words makes a really long short story, but that worked for me.
I don't like the word 'novelette'. Maybe it's because I don't want to be a writer-ette.
A novella always felt like 40,000 to 70,000 to me. Above that we're talking about novels, with a mega-novel being over a million words of book.
If you're here because you searched for advice on how to describe the length of your story, for God's sake bookmark this site for your writer guy who talks dreams, horror and creativity, then check out the Science Fiction Writers of America length guidelines. It's a common reference on this subject.
It's partly because of the online market place and how Amazon has changed published that I'm thinking about lengths in this detail again. Kindle and other e-readers have really turned around what constitutes a book. A book used to need a certain number of pages to be worthwhile to a publisher. Now it's possible to publish something exceptionally short by traditional standards and package it as a book. Not an e-pamphlet, but an e-book.
The moment I finished this draft of my short story, I announced to my wife that I'd finished my BOOK and cracked open the pina colada on ice to celebrate. While imbibing, I had to remind myself that yes I had finished a book technically, but not a novel. I'd just finished a short story. At that point I wasn't even thinking of it as a novella.
Come on, dude. Enough congrats," I said. "Move on."
The tequila is reserved for the big guns.
To answer the literary length question, I'll probably call it whatever people on the relevant retailers (Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords and others) are calling books of that size. In my heart and in the notes, however, I'll consider it a short story.
I'm not too tied up with length debate, but I'm finding it interesting to think and write about. I've concluded that one of the reasons for my inner conflict with how to describe the length is that the story was conceived and planned as a short story. The first ever version was about 2500 words long. I thought I'd bump it up to 10,000 words, but ended up with 25000.
My novella, "The Body", which I'm now editing since "The Chair" is at the next stage of development, was intended to be a novella of about 40,000 words and ended up being 65,000. Again, I'm having a similar thing with it: I don't think of it as a novel, even though it's ended up in the borderlands of noveldom. (I've read about Catch-22 and Of Mice and Men, being all literary and shorter than typical paperbacks and considered novels nonetheless).
"The Body" has a novella feel as far as I'm concerned. I put it there. I feel a bit like it's a teenager going out in his dad's leather jacket if I call it a novel, but it is nearly all growed up.
Mostly I think that determining the length and what we call it is a marketing and customer-aiding tool. It's helpful to be able to effectively explain to people what I'm asking them to download. With digital you can't feel how heavy a book is.
I've also been thinking about another marketing tool: genre description. My writing is often cross-genre and I'm struggling with that one, although I'm enjoying the variations.
Ultimately, I love the horror genre and would be proud to consider myself a horror writer, but I don't want to disappoint people who expect a rising body count and a lot of blood. There's some blood, but bleeding is only one of the things I find scary. Read the book and see.
I'm looking for beta-readers for "The Chair" so if you're interested in reading this early version please email me for a copy. Let me know what format you prefer and I'll abide. I welcome all criticism and advice regarding the writing, the story and also how I should describe it.
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