Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My Spoon is Too Big! (Writing Update 3.5.14)

If you get that reference, congratulations. You are already a nerd. If you don't, CLICK HERE. (And, you're welcome. (Also, those cartoons get very weird after the first 60 seconds or so. And kind of violent. But they won an Oscar.))

Today, I broke the 7k mark on the new Spider-thief story. I had planned, in the vague way that I plot things out ahead of time and guess how many words it will take me to tell a particular story based on how much stuff happens in it, to be almost done at this point. I planned this for a couple of reasons.
1. The first Spider-thief story (which is forthcoming from Crowded Magazine in a couple of months) is about 5.5k words. I thought it would be cool to keep them all (there is a third one in the works) about the same length.
2. This one has a little more plot than the first, but I didn't really see why it would go more than 8k. It seemed like a good length.

And then I started writing and things got more detailed and intense because that's what happens when I let my subconscious really chew on something for a while. And before I knew it, I was only a little way through the story and already over 5k. I immediately realized my story is too big. (Which is why I am linking to a bizarre bit of animation that won an Oscar over ten years ago, but was a HUGE hit with me and my film student friends. Because once you see "My spoon is too big!" it stays with you forever.)

I also realized if I left my story/plot the way it was, it would probably top out right at 11-12k. Which is one thing I try to avoid. At. All. Costs. Actually, I don't. I write the story to the length that works best for the story. But if I can help it, I try not to write to that range because there are significantly fewer markets that take work over 10k. (The sweet spot for short stories is always 3-5k, but I almost never hit that range.) And once you get over 10k then you have to climb pretty hard to reach novella length.

There wasn't enough plot to make a novella. But there also wasn't much complication to the story. My MC is trying to do a thing, she travels from one place to another, does the thing, everybody goes home happy. So, what if she wasn't able to just travel from one place to the other? What if there were obstacles?

And by the time I got up this morning (along with Cthulu's slightly less destructive nephew, who appears to have taken up residence in my throat where it has spent the last 24 hours spewing green crud) I had an idea of what those obstacles might be.

And once I started writing, more details came to light. Things the characters were struggling with. Layers of tension that would have been hinted at, but never brought fully to light if I left this as a short story.

My point? Well, there may not be one. I'm a little fuzzy due to the snot in my cranial space, a mostly liquid diet because of a dire cough, and the by-the-label administration of cough meds. But I think, if there were to be a point, it would be this.

A spoon may be too big, but a story will inevitably be just the right size whether it's 100k words or just 100 words. You'll know it when you write it, that it's the length it should be. You'll feel it in your bones that it's done.

And then you can start trying to find a home for the beast, whatever size it is. 

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