Friday, November 21, 2008

Online and Offline Fiction

Yesterday Patti Abbott blogged:

I write long short stories. Probably a holdover from my days of writing literary fiction. Four to five thousand words often feels right to me.

But as [a] zine editor pointed out to me Monday, that's long for online reading. So I cut a 4500 word story to 3000 words in 30 minutes. Not hard at all.

Why didn't I see all those unnecessary words before I sent it out? Does this happen to you? Or, alternately, do you read stories that feel longer than they need to be?

Or are we all getting to be too impatient in wanting such bite-sized stories. Are those extra words the ones that give it depth, grit or meaning? Have we sacrificed something else in the name of brevity? If you can read a novel on a Kindle, why is a 5000 word story long for online?

My comment with additional thoughts:

Part of this is the editor's taste, but I think it's also practically tied to reading habits. When I go online, I want to get information as quickly as possible and move on to the next thing. With the rate technology improves, we all expect greater convenience.

Consider that an e-zine owner wants readers to stay on his site longer, scrolling and clicking on ads, etc. Longer stories mean readers might print them out, close their browsers, and walk away. If readers see shorter stories, they might stay and read them to save paper and toner (and possibly click on more ads).

In the case you mention, cutting words increases the likelihood a story will be published. If you were targeting a different market, your idea of what works best would change with the market. This is not a bad thing. It's simply a creative challenge. Writers who can't adapt their ideas for many markets have fewer markets open to them.

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