If you’ve read my story collection, The Arc of the Cosmos, you know I’m capable of writing short short fiction. And yet, I have a hard time writing short, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, although stylistically I tend toward writing lean. I just seem to have a lot of story to tell.
I am currently in the process of revising a longish short story, “Earl,” the original draft of which runs just a little over 6,800 words. As I revise, that count keeps moving up. And as I revise, I wonder if the story will end longer than it started. Which makes me wonder if my original idea is too expansive for a short story.
I love short stories, love learning how to write them. I like the “window of the world” stories present, as much as I like the expansiveness of novels.
I’m not averse to stories like Joan Didion seems to be in this essay from Brain Pickings. Like Didion, I like having “room in which to play.” But am I playing with too much room?
I think about this too after a recent interview—due out next month—with science-fiction writer Lou Antonelli, who is known for writing lean, swiftly moving prose. He told me his revisions tend to shorten his stories.
How much expansion is too much expansion? How much tightening is too much?