Does The Size Matter? Of stories, I mean.

James Garside by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

Never mind the length, feel the width

Some stories are short.

Some stories are long.

Some stories are shallow.

Some stories are deep.

But width is what your stories need most.

The long and the short of it

Life is a long journey — you might want to go to the toilet before you set off. But in your fiction you need as few toilet-breaks as possible.

Elmore Leonard said: “My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: When you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.”

Enough said.

And the flip side: try to leave in all the parts readers want to read.

A brief note on minimalism

Minimalism isn’t just a style — it’s a philosophy.

Pare your words down to the bone.

Don’t use two words where one will do.

Don’t use big words where little ones will do.

Be precise and concise.

Make your plot as realistic as possible — even if you’re writing about elves.

Minimalism shiminalism

Raymond Carver.

Ernest Hemingway.

Elmore Leonard.

All of these writers used minimalism, in their own way, to great effect.

William Faulkner.

Franz Kafka.

Thomas Pynchon.

All of these writers used maximalism, in their own way, to great effect.

You can push too hard in either direction and it’s ok to find a middle ground.

John Gardner told Raymond Carver to “read all the Faulkner you can get your hands on, and then read all the Hemingway to clean the Faulkner out of your system.”

Experiment with both styles — find your own way.

They’re just a means to an end.

Whatever works, works.

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NCTJ-qualified British independent journalist, author and travel writer.


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