How Long Should Your Story Be?

I started off writing several years ago with micro fiction, at under 250 words. At the time, it felt the most comfortable and safe way to go about things – did I want to invest time in something that people might hate? Also, I didn’t think I had enough to say to make a story much longer!

Over time, my stories have progressed to 1k – 2k up to my more recent efforts that have been weighing in at anywhere between 10k – 20k words. I’ve written 2 novel length books (70k – 80k words) but not considered publishing them yet; I just don’t think they have what it takes at the moment.

I enjoy writing short stories, but what does ‘short’ mean? That brought me to the following article by Richard Thomas…

One question I get from most of my student is, “How long should my story be?” Or, “How do you know when to stop, when your story is done?” And those are great questions. Let’s take a look at some different variables that can help you to figure out how long your story should be, and if there is enough meat on the bone to go longer.

1: Trick or Gimmick

If your story is relying on a framework that is a bit of a trick or gimmick, it may be really hard to maintain that. My list story, “Twenty Reasons to Stay and One to Leave”, is only about 400 words. That’s as long as I could stretch the list and keep it moving. My epistolary story, “In His House”, ended up being about 2,000 words, as that’s as long as I could sustain the narrative of an email conversation from some Lovecraftian slave trying to enlist you into his cosmic horror army. And my story, “Undone”, which is one sentence, inspired by the 800-word Stephen Graham Jones story “Faberge” that I reprinted at Gamut, had to get over the 1,500 word mark so I could submit it to the Pantheon anthology, Gorgon: Stories of Transformation.

Read the rest of this article here.

One thought on “How Long Should Your Story Be?

  1. I always say a story should be as long as it takes to tell and I have written from 6 words to 250,000 ( and that one started at 325,000 till I edited it! ). I have read the first Sinister story Steve, I really liked the suspense, why and what … I could have down with a few hundred less words of the gruesome details, but the ending was very clever!


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