Eildon Rhymer (rhymer23) wrote,
Eildon Rhymer

Story length

I was writing a short story last night. "How long do you think you'll be?" my husband asked. "Not too long," I replied. "I don't think it's going to be a long one - perhaps under 3000 words." Then I paused and thought for a while. "Of course," I said, "that means it will end up being 5000 words long. They always do."

With that, I returned to my writing. Time passed. The evening got late. I wrote without looking at my word count, and reached the end at last. "5002 words," I read.

This amused me, because it is by no means an isolated occurence. A surprisingly large number of my short stories end up around 5000 words, especially those that I originally thought would be shorter. 5000 words is also my standard chapter length when it comes to long stories. There is a certain amount of intervention here, since I like my chapters to be fairly consistent in length, so if the natural end of a chapter arc comes before 3000 words or looks like exceeding 6500, I consider restructuring things. But, still, the majority of my chapters just naturally seem to come in at between 4500 and 5500.

The thing that intrigues me, though, is that I started writing fanfic back in the days of plain text files on Usenet. I didn't think in word count back then, but I came to learn that limit on post size was about 10 pages. I didn't think in terms of chapters back then (though I have no idea why not), and merely wrote my long stories right through, and then went back through them and inserted breaks every ten pages or so. I didn't like to split short stories into two posts, so tried to get them wrapped up before 10 pages.

And how many words are there in 10 UK-sized pages in Word? Roughly 5000. I honestly don't know if my muse naturally defaults to taking about 5000 words to tell a short story or a chapter of a longer story, or if I'm still hidebound by a habit imposed by the medium I worked in nearly 20 years ago.
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