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Length of Story



One question that often comes up in writing groups and workshops is "How long should my story be?" The answer is "Until it is finished." As long as you do not have space restrictions, you should write until your story if finished. If length is not an issue, then don't worry about it. Write until you feel that your story has been adequately told. The length of your story should not impede upon your writing or telling of the story in any way, whether it is too long or too short. There are, however, guidelines that can help you determine if the length of your story is too long or too short - and it probably is nothing like you think.

Word Count

If you are restricted to a certain word length, then you will have to pay attention to your story's length. The thing to keep in mind, though, it that if you are restricted to, say, 500 words, but your story is more like a 750 word story, then make every single one of those 500 words count.  Usually you can cut your story and still get your point across. It takes some creativity and you may have to edit a few times, but it can be done. Work with your piece and don't be afraid to edit, that is a natural part of the writing process.


As a rule, on a standard page with one inch margins and the font set at 12, a 500 word piece is about a page. Depending on your number of paragraphs, spacing between paragraphs and whether or not you included a list or bulleted items, it can run over or even be less than a page, but one page for 500 words is a good rule of thumb. A 750 word story with the same settings will run you about a page and a half while a 1,000 word story will be about two pages. Most word processing applications have word count tools, but if yours does not, you can type "free word count" into a search engine and find quite a few free applications that you can use.

Too Long

If you read over your piece and find that it contains a lot of useless information or things that are not really relevant to your story, then it is too long. This extra, useless information and words is called "fluff" and you don't want it anywhere near your story. Fluff is basically used to stuff stories to make them longer. If you read over your story and say to yourself, "I don't really need to include that," or the information has little or nothing to do with your story, then cut it. Every word in your story should go toward making your story better, not longer. A story that is too words or contains too much fluff will bore your readers or confuse them.  Whatever the case you will lose readers. Do yourself, your readers and your story a favor, trim the fat.

Irony


Too Short

This is the flip side of a story that is too long. If you read over your story and find that there are gaps in information, then your story is too short. Pick out key points and look at them through the eyes of someone who has never heard that point. Does it make sense? Does it leaving you wondering or wanting more information? Take your key points and flesh them out.  Don't just say "the movie was bad," explain how it was bad. What elements made it bad? A story that is too short will bore your reader and confuse them. They will walk away from your story feeling as if they only got half of it. They may even wonder what was your point in telling the story. 

Learn the art of mastering the fine line between too much information and not enough. Write your story and let it unfold before you. It is up to you to flesh out the details. Your reader is reading your story for a reason. Maybe they know you and want to read of your experiences, or maybe you had a catchy title and they wanted to know more. Whatever the case, you owe it to them to give them to whole story, sans the fluff.