From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Are you a Long writer or a Short writer?

This is a major problem I have with every piece. Not necessarily a problem with the piece, per se, but a problem with my attitude towards it and stress about it.

I should say off the bat that this is not a good vs bad issue (despite the Glinda picture...sorry, couldn't help myself). Its not an issue of being a "good witch" or a "bad witch." We all just write differently, and each end of the spectrum comes with different issues.

Many of my writer friends are self-professed "long" writers. They fill scenes easily, find interesting new characters to work with along the way, and (I think?) don't typically feel at a loss for words. Their main trouble comes with editing, when they have too much and have to decide what to cut. It's like asking which finger they want cut off.

Then there are those of us on the "short" end of the spectrum. (No jokes, here, okay? 5'4 [almost] is a perfectly acceptable height for a lady). I am most definitely on this end of the spectrum, about as far as you can go. It used to give me doubts about whether or not I was a "real" or "legitimate" writer, because how could someone who wants to write for a living, and loves doing it, have such a hard time finding enough words? I've had lots of time to think about this, and how me being this type of writer is definitely okay and to be expected given other areas of my personality. I ADORE the editing process, and going through an already drafted piece and fixing it up is so much easier and so much more fun than the drafting itself. But in the first draft, I am always worried I won't have enough.

This is something I've talked about before, and its worth talking about again. I'm trying to learn how to not stress about word count at the beginning, and remember that editing is for adding too and I can make it work. I try to remind myself to slow down in the drafting process and feel all the grooves and twists along the path and so I don't end up skipping ahead, going too fast, getting everything in.

So anyway, those of you long writers have any advice or tips for us shorties? I realize that its an innate and ingrained part of our personalities and process that determines which side of the spectrum we're on, and that we can't necessarily explain it. But what are you talking about with all those words? What do you use to take up that needed space?

Sarah Allen


  1. Sarah-- I'm with you. I'm a short writer. I actually read about this in some famous author's craft book recently. There are just two types and as you said, not good, not bad. I like to think of us as succinct and tight writers. ;) (Spin doctor, anyone?)

  2. I'm a long writer, but I use easy language so I think that evens it out. I like to show you whats going on so I have to describe and tell you how it feels, smells, sounds like, taste like. ALlt hat Jazz.

  3. I'm def a short writer and am always worried that I won't have enough words. I've found that in my revisions I usually add a lot of words to flesh out the scenes, but even then I'm always worried! And I count on CPs/betas to tell me when a scene needs more meat (b/c I can never figure it out for some reason).

  4. I tend towards too short, too. I dislike padding so much when I read that I think I go the other way when I write, trying to be too concise.


  5. I'm a short writer thus far. I struggle to get "enough" words to meet the standards of the average novel (or even the average "verse" novel). But, it's not because I can't come up with words. And I don't think that stories necessarily should be filled with lots of words (often people over-do it on description). My problem is filling in the murky middles and keeping it exciting enough for me as a writer. As a reader, I love that part of books--good books, at least--but they're hard to come up with as the writer. The key there is to create sub-plots. Something, I'm going to talk about on my blog soon.

  6. I am a long writer, but it comes from sub-plots and multiple POVs. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

  7. I write fantasy, so hitting in at about 90,000 words works well for me. I don't usually have too much trouble either way - but I don't know why it would be better or worse to write too much or too little! Editing is a different process for everyone, and it just means you get to edit in more depth and characterization instead of cutting out your darlings. :)

  8. I'm another short writer. In my head, why use 50 words when 2 will do?... Answer: because that way I'd actually achieve novel length! Still practising :-)

  9. Well you did not define short or long in terms of word count. My 75-80k novels are short compared to the cinder-block bricks that are known as HP5 and the Twilight books. Even all three of my books combined fall short. But they are long compared to my current series that is averaging just above 10k words each episode.

    I'm finding that the shorter works are developing more detail and character building than the long works. This may simply be a byproduct of my writing method as well. How much world and character building is there in one movie length book vs. an entire season of a TV show?

    I think the old advice still stands. To become a better writer you need to write. For me learning from the editing process has helped me the most. When a manuscript comes back, don't be afraid to ask why or get a second opinion. It's not like high school or college where you only have to satisfy the teacher (beware an editor that loves everything you do). Understanding that you will NEVER be able to make everyone happy is key. Short or long, it doesn't matter as long as it's good.

  10. I tried writing short when I had first started writing, but quickly found that my forte and comfort level for word length fell somewhere in the 20 to 24k range (my debut novel is the exception to the rule), although I do have a few polished short stories in the 10 to 11k word range.

    Both types are acceptable to perform, but it seems to me (from observing a few fellow writers) that some short story writers have problems makig the transition to a longer format, especially if they've been doing short stories for a number of years; and by the flip side of the coin, those whose comfort level is the longer story have problems writing shorter stories.

  11. Sometimes I can be either one. All I can tell you is to write and make notes if ideas pop into your head. ***shrugs*** That's what I do.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  12. I'm a short writer. I know it, and everyone knows it. My first draft came out at about 61k. During the second draft, I cut out pretty much everything that stuck out to me as awful. So it's now roughly 57k. And it's fantasy, where books are generally 70k - 90k on the short side.

    But in order for me to be content with myself, I've decided I'll be happy as long as the book comes out at anywhere over 200 pages in print. Any less and it'll need reworking.

    It's going to the editor in a few weeks, so she'll doubtless have me cutting things out in several places, as well as adding things in. All in all, I'm feeling pretty good.

    Now I'm having this strange experience. I've started a novella, which I'm anticipating to be around 35,000 words. I approached this differently, planning out the plot and some scenes in a small amount of detail. The first chapter's now well over 5,000 words, where in the past my chapters would always fall between 2,000 and 4,000 words.

    It may be the fact that I'm writing more words each day that before, so now I'm placing myself in the scene more and can feel if it's moving too quickly. Or maybe it'll just need a lot of editing down the track. Who knows? I'm excited though, I can tell you that!

  13. I'm an in betweener. My scenes tend to run to long simply because I'll get caught up in character interaction and instead of the couple of lines of dialogue needed, I'll end up with an entire page. The less I secure I am about what I'm writing the more this happens. Luckily I have no trouble slashing during the editing process.

    What I've noticed while writing is I tend to panic about how long my scenes run, I'm constantly worrying about whether or not they're dragging on and on. As a result my style tends to get more abbreviated as the scene goes on. I haven't come up with a good way to fix this issue other than extensive editing.


I absolutely love hearing from you! Thank you so, so much for your thoughts and comments, they really do make my day. Consider yourself awesome. Also, I do my best to respond to every comment within 24 hours, so I invite you to come back and continue the conversation :)

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