Saturday, July 23, 2016

Story Length

One of the disadvantages of submitting a story to someone else for publication is the fact that you are forced to comply with their requirements for length. It can't be longer, or shorter, than they think is appropriate. Or than they need it to be in order to cram it into their publication.

This is perfectly understandable, albeit a pain in the rump, when dealing with print media. It costs money to print things. So what you end up with is a publisher telling the author 'edit it down, make it shorter, compact it, trim the fat' and so forth. What they are really saying is 'weaken the story and take out the details, flatten the characters, minimize the world building, and keep the immersion to a minimum because we can't afford to put quality story telling first'. The more you spend on printing, the smaller your profit margin. For the print publishers, the ideal situation would be a one page book that they could sell for $250.

But for electronic publications it makes about as much sense as those computer RPGs that still use pen and paper game mechanics.

Simultaneously, one of the advantages of writing for self-publication is the ability to let the story set its own length. My latest book is a bit longer than I expected, but not outrageously so. I doubt that a print publisher would touch it, no matter what they thought of the quality of the writing, simply because of the length. Along the same vein, I submitted several short stories a few years ago to some online magazines. Some of them were crap, and I freely admit it. Some of them were pretty good, but they were too long.

You see, when I write a science fiction or fantasy story, I like to make sure that the reader has at least a superficial idea of what I'm talking about. So when I describe a place, I don't just say that the character went somewhere imaginary. I say, it had cobblestones, or the roof was slate and leaked a little at the north end, or whatever. This, unfortunately, requires space. The way some editors go on and on, you would have thought they had to pay for pixels at double the price of ink.

This is all leading up to me digging out some old stories and looking them over. At least one of them is going back onto the workbench. I still like it. So I'm going to fix it the way I originally intended it to be and publish it here. If no one reads it, so what? At least it will be done.
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