You’re writing a short story. Everything’s going well and it looks like you’re going to be well within the limit of, say, 4,000 words. You keep checking as you go, and it’s all good- Then you realise you’ve passed it by a couple of thousand words. But that’s ok, it can probably be cut down to fit. Except you’ve not quite finished. And you’ve just had this idea that would be perfect. . . And now you’re up to 7,000 words. 12,000. . .
Still not finished. What do you do?
Not get that far because you gave it up as soon as it got too big? Be ruthless and make it fit, even if that means starting again with the same idea but a blank page? Admit that maybe this story needs more than 4,000 words to be told and go with it? Keep writing and find you’ve got a meandering tale that could have been written in half the words if you’d just stuck to the point in the first place?
I think I’ve done a few of those. Certainly I’ve decided a story needs to be bigger but I couldn’t work on it right then, so I left it to do later and never got back to it. I’ve also persevered and ended up with a much longer story than intended. (As to its quality, I wouldn’t like to say)
Which option is best and how do you tell? Each time is different. These are some things I ended up thinking about though: did the story need the length or would it work shorter; did I want to – and could I – work on a longer project right then; did I have a different short story idea to use instead of this one; was I enjoying writing this?
If the answer to the last was yes, then I’d try to work on the story. Cause guess what? Writing’s meant to be fun. At least some of the time.