Sunday I finished a long story I’ve been working on since summer. I should say, I finished the fifth draft. I thought Sunday that it was the final draft and was quite enthused about it. Monday I started to feel parts of it weren’t right and began to become disillusioned.
The story is called, “The Drowned Phenician Vintner,” and it’s about 17,600 words. If you’re not in the writing game, let me tell you, any short story more than 7,500 – 8,000 words has a limited market. Novels should be 70,000 – 100,000. So The Drowned Phenician is in that grey area—some web sites, magazines, and journals call it a novelette; some call it a novella.
I like to call it a “long story.” I have counted the words in several Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett stories, and they frequently came in around 15,000 – 16,000, particularly Chandler’s finest, like “Red Wind” and “Goldfish”. Several of Hammett’s long stories were serialized in Black Mask, and when he had four 15,000-word-connected serials, he and his publisher put out a 60,000 or so word novel such as Red Harvest, The Dain Curse, or The Glass Key.
That’s not where I am headed with this, though The Drowned Phenician is loosely connected to my stories “Ice,” (Ellery Queen, Sept.-Oct. 2011), and “Joe’s Last Scratch,” by chronology and recurring characters—P.I. Frank Swiver, his love Vera Peregrino, maquis forger Joe Damas, and lesbian waitress Alex. It is still conceivable that I could develop some sort of overall story arc or villain and write one or two more in this set and have a good book.
More about the drafting and revision process in my next post.