Thoughts On Writing: Word Limits

I’m not a fan of word limits – at least not when I’m writing my own stories. I understand that if an employer or teacher asks you to, you need to follow their limits, but otherwise I think you should write until the story tells you it’s finished.

As many of you know, I’m putting together a collection of short stories. I mentioned in a recent post, that according to the internet, some of my shorter stories are actually considered ‘novellas’. I understand the need to set labels on these things – how else would professional magazines and literary agents work with writers? – but at the same time, I think that too many labels make things more complicated than they need to be.

I’m not going to limit my short stories to what the internet defines as ‘short’. I’m going to write the story how I want and if I feel that it’s short enough to fit into my collection, I will place it with the other stories. In fact, I’m planning on titling the short story book and then putting ‘a collection of short(er) stories’. I don’t necessarily think a person needs to do that, but at least my readers will know what to expect.

When in school, I was never a fan of word limits. I understand that these assignments were to challenge the writer and to teach that in some writing positions, you will need to learn to limit yourself. I completely understand this and as I said, when being employed, you must respect this. If your employer pays you to write within certain limits, you should do it and do it well. If a teacher asks you to write within their limits for a paper or project, then you do so. These are different circumstances.

For yourself, however, and for your readers, write until you feel satisfied with the story. Don’t rush it or cram your thoughts into what is the defined ‘short story’ just because you might be putting together what you call a ‘collection of short stories’. Write until it feels right!

You are the one that needs to be proud of your work. Wouldn’t you rather not label something exactly as the internet says is the ‘right way’ rather than sacrifice your talent as a writer just to fit into a boxed definition?

If you want to call a ‘novella’ a short story, then go for it (unless of course you are writing for a company that demands you label the story under their definitions). If you want to call a ‘novella’ a story, then go for that to. Do what feels right to you!



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