It’s funny. When I get an idea, I often don’t have the sense of how big it should be. I’ll bang at it for a while, and then I’ll get some sense. I can either trim off some threads and make it shorter, or I can keep going longer.
One piece I wrote for a market with a 500-word limit. I believe it clocked in at 497. I took too long fussing with it, and this market was “open until filled,” and I just missed the deadline.
Then I wanted to submit it to another place, but it really needed a rethink. Plus their minimum word count was 500 (max 1000), so it needed some more words. When I submitted it, several places gave it a near miss.
Then the SFWA membership guidelines changed, requiring $75 min. Well, at 5 cents a word, shouldn’t it be 1500 words so it could count? I saw that there was an emerging structure that could be developed, so that’s where I added the words. It went from 5 scenes (intro, outro, and three short scenes) to seven and added a secondary plot, finishing up at 1600 words.
I sent it off, and got a personal rejection (and a “love the writing”) from a market that I’d never gotten that much from before. But, no sale.
I workshopped it with my local group. Got snarky comments from a writer I wanted to slap (but didn’t). Still, several people echoed the same sentiment: the first scene didn’t work.
I reworked the first scene, massaged some other scenes. Still, I kept it in the drawer.
I signed up for a writing workshop last year, then managed to put off prepping any submissions. In a panic, I pulled the story out of the drawer, gave it a fluff and fold and sent it off.
Most of them loved or liked it. One person loved it until the final scene, which he eviscerated. Others agreed that the last scene was problematic. The big problem had never been with the first scene. It’s just that sometimes it can seem that way if the last scene doesn’t work. Everyone, including me, had missed that. (I wrote a thank-you note to the guy.)
What this guy said? Was true of many of my other pieces. It just caused this cascade to ripple through my mind about all my other work. Awesome.
So I rewrote it, sent it off. Got a nice rejection. Sent it again. Got a form rejection.
Decided it was time to look and see where I could go deeper.
Realized that the very end needed more context, which I did some research on. Figured out where to massage in the necessary bits of research (two sentences). Added another scene for more context. It’s now 9 scenes and 2000 words.
I hope for better news this time.
On the story I wrote today? I have the feeling, like I did with my older story’s 497-word origin, that it’s not done yet. It feels like it could be a novella in sketch form. A novel perhaps.
We’ll just have to see.