May is "Short Story Month."
Recently, I've been working on (read: staring at while holding a red pen) a very large pile of paper which represents roughly five-eighths of my novel-in-progress, LIGHT.
Wait! But this is "Short Story Month" and I just started talking about a novel! I'm breaking my own rules, you say.
Bear with me.
LIGHT has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Those first five-eighths are now printed because I'm starting the (likely long) process of tearing them apart and fixing them up a bit when I can snatch a moment here and there at work, or on breaks, or other moments between other moments. The last three-eighths are a bit rougher, and I'm going to spend some more screen time with them before I print them and then bloody them up and retype again and...
It's daunting, is the point I'm making here. There's the C-plot I need to fix up (and in many cases write from scratch from my own short-cut notes in the file). I've got work to do on sections I need flush out where I didn't allow myself to go online for research. All manner of bits and pieces like that.
I can, however, see the light at the end of the tunnel. And that tunnel is measured in short stories.
(See? I got back to the topic at hand.)
Word counts terrify me. When I write short fiction, I try to just write the story, and then look at the numbers after I feel the story's first draft is a go. This has led to some rough moments: "Heart" lost a cat, for example; I had to give up on an idea for a micro-short because I just couldn't get it down to 1,200 words; the original idea I had for a story for RAISING HELL is now an outline for a Triad novel. When I started writing LIGHT, I started to worry in the opposite direction. I didn't think it would be long enough, and indeed, the very bare-bones version clocked in around 60,000 words. I believe 80,000 is a more comfortable number for a "light read" novel. I gaped at my computer, astounded. 20,000 words? That couldn't be possible. I mean, fine, there was quite a bit of backlog stuff I had to fix, but... I was so dejected.
Then I realized that most of my short stories, which I generally write a rough draft in one or two sittings, generally clocked in somewhere around 5,000 words.
So that'd be the equivalent of four short stories worth of output I was getting upset over.
Suddenly that's not so scary. Yeah, it's not the same thing. It's not like I can just ram four short stories onto the end of a novel or something like that. But a solid brainstorming session allowed me to realize that my character was having a pretty linear time of things, and that a loop or two would be more interesting, as would expanding on something I'd been pondering from the get-go as a way to include more of his support network in the story. Better, both those things would make his character stronger and the story - I hope - more entertaining. Because who wouldn't want to try to juggle saving the world, starting a new romance, and dodging a mad-man while your best friend decides she wants to date your brother?
So I'm trying to remind myself that end-to-end, the four stories I've written with the Triad characters top out over 28,000 words. That those guys seem to want to be a novel, too, is also encouraging.
Not bad for a short story writer.
But definitely time for another pot of tea.