Size Doesn’t Matter. Honest.

So, apparently 16th May was National Flash Fiction Day. Did you know? A twitter friend of mine sent me this great article by David Gaffney in The Guardian http://m.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/may/14/how-to-write-flash-fiction?cat=books&type=article please go check it out for some useful hints and tips about flash fiction.
This led to a conversation about how I admire anyone who has the ability to keep their writing so focused that they can churn out micro-fiction limited to a 150 word limit. To me, this just seems impossible. Maybe I just talk too much, but I’ve always found it difficult to stick to a required word limit. As a child in lower school, my teacher would ask us to write a story four pages long and ten pages later I would still be writing.
This has never really changed throughout my life. University assignments were to me, a form of water torture. I could never stick to the word limit. The difficulty never lay in researching the subject matter, forming a convincing argument and being able to back up my theory with concrete proof. It was always the word limit. I’d get to the end of the assignment and realise I had gone way over the required word count and then have to spend ages editing and trying to work out what section I had to cut and how I could get my word count back on target.
The only course in which that was never an issue was the women in contemporary poetry module, which was also a creative writing course. There was seemingly never any need for a word count when writing poetry. Maybe poetry enabled me to tame my urge to keep writing until my fingers bled. Maybe it somehow helped me to remain more focused and succinct. I don’t know.
I like to think that now I write novels, I am not endlessly babbling and waffling on for pages and pages. I like to think that I’m still focused despite the fact Dark Sanctuary is over 140,000 words. To some, that might seem like an obscene amount of words. Until I wrote Dark Sanctuary I never knew what might be an acceptable word count. After all, when you read a book by one of your favourite authors, you don’t get to the last page and see the word count printed out loud and proud. And I don’t ever buy a paperback based on how many pages it has. I buy a book because the blurb has reeled me in. Size doesn’t matter. Or does it?
It seems in some corners, it does. In fact, some people seem quite hung up on size. Is it too long? Is it too short? Are people really put off by a higher word count?
I’ve edited Dark Sanctuary a number of times. The cost of getting it professionally edited made me get hung up on the word count. The longer the word count, the more expensive it was going to be to get it edited. So from a practical and financial point of view, I toyed with the idea of being more brutal with my editing; taking out large sections just to get the book to a more acceptable, and affordable size. Maybe I’m slightly precious with my writing, but ultimately I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Taking out certain sections for the sake of an acceptable final word count seemed like going against the grain.
I’m more than happy to take out something if it doesn’t work but I’m not happy to cut for cuttings sake or to please anyone who prefers their novels to be under 80,000 words. All I can say to those readers is if that is the length of novel that you want, then it’s probably best not to come a-knocking on Sarah’s door as her story doesn’t conform to standard word counts. She talks, I write and we will be done when we’re done and not before.

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2 Comments

Filed under Random stuff

2 responses to “Size Doesn’t Matter. Honest.

  1. barkingmaddy

    I do think that you write brilliant short stories with unexpected twists.

  2. There’s room for short stories and longer novels alike. I tend to prefer a longer novel than short fiction as I rarely feel like I’ve had long enough to connect with the characters and plot in a short piece.

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