This weekend I worked at editing a piece that I’ve been toying with off-and-on (more off than on, of course) for about a year and half. I’ve completed it and it is now in the “heavy editing” stage.
In the process, I’ve discovered that this piece is not what I thought it was. I’ve crafted (I believe) an interesting, multi-layered story with an entertaining narrator–no problems there. However, what I thought was a short story has become a “novelette”, or maybe even a “novella”*. This vexes me a bit because (a) selling a novella or novelette as a nobody-writer is a very difficult proposition (at least, according to the various bits of advice I’ve come across in print and at cons/workshops), and (b) I don’t know if this happened because I’m a needlessly long-winded writer or because that’s what the story needs to be.
The more I read through the piece, looking for prose to cut or passages to rearrange, the more I find that if I cut it to decent short story length, the story that I’m trying to tell will be gutted. If I make too many more cuts, the themes will lose their richness. The layers that give the story depth need to be there. It will be less than what I intended–if longer than what I initially thought.
To be sure, I’ve cut out a lot of fat already. I’ve also rearranged some portions to punch them up a bit. My hope is that it is interesting enough to justify the length. The Lord of the Rings is a series of very long movies, but I don’t mind because they keep me engaged. I’ve certainly not written anything of the caliber of LOTR, but I do believe that the reader can stay engaged with the story for the duration.
I’ve spoken with my primary editor (aka “The Wife”) and she encourages me not to cut it down to short story length; to let the story be what it is. It’s taking me awhile to get my mind around the fact that the fruit of my labors is not what I intended, but like many parents, I’ll learn to embrace my offspring for what it has become on its own.