Size, and How it Matters


Thanks, Fandango, but it’s not at all what you expect … call it a twist of irony.

Does size matter?

Of course, it does.

I wrote a whole diatribe, deleted it, wrote it again, deleted it. It had nothing to do with the expectation of the question – or, at least, the expectation that a male would associate with the question, but that’s gone now – I pulled my horns in.

Instead, you get this: what is the right size for the story? This relates to genre, in a sense, but also to what readers expect from particular genres. A fantasy can be longer than a romance, a thriller can be longer than a cozy or crime fiction, an urban fantasy or magic realism story can be any length – but those who read have rules about length!

Size, in this context, does relate to length

(we had to get there sometime, didn’t we?).

Even a short story has rules about length. There are:

Micro and flash fiction (defined slightly differently in Australia than in the US, EU, and UK);

Short stories

(from 1,000 words and can go up to 15,000 words, but some publishers/readers think anything over 10k words is a novelette!);


(10-20,000 words, but check, check, check – the Nebula Award makes their expectations clear);


(20-40,000 words – but some say 20-55,000 words!).

Then there are ‘real’ stories:


(40 (or 50, or 55) thousand words and up);


(go on, define a super-huge tome like War and Peace).

I may have missed one or two, because these things are constantly on the move – the world changes, as does how a reader expects to receive their story. And a lot of stories are rejected for being the wrong ‘size’ so yes, Fandango, size does matter.

However, the most important question is this:

is the story the right size to say what needs to be said?

That’s my criterion – it’s all I need to focus on while writing the story.

If I want long and complex, thick with interactions and side-shows, it’s going to be longer, but the main message may be muddy or diluted. Fantasy can suffer from this, because there seems to be a need for multiple racial profiles and interactions, for building a world visible to the reader that sets the ‘difference’ up from the beginning.

If I want short and blunt, the story needs to be focussed tightly on one event, one person’s interaction with one other person. That’s the best fit for a low count. That’s why romance is shorter than fantasy.

If I want a good story, well told – what does size matter?

A lot. A story isn’t a story without a reader, and readers have expectations, so Yes, Size Matters.


An example of a variety of short stories, from 500 words to …


5 thoughts on “Size, and How it Matters

    • Wisdom? Sounds more like I’m just as confused as everyone else!
      I tend to write the length I like to read, with not too many people to get to know, and with a more direct and discernible purpose. But I’d like life to be like that, too!

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