I asked Three questions in another question. To break it up, I am going to ask one which I still would like more feedback on.

NOTE: I was told to break it up by the moderator who closed it. Although I got one answer, I feel the question was not clear with 3 total, and it didn't get a chance to be fully examined.

The Original Question:

I want to write a fiction story that is a sort of post-apocalyptic story. I haven't written nearly any fiction, although did a couple argument/persuasive essays.

Here is some background info.

  • The story has lots of depth - especially in the beginning, which builds up story and characters, and thus is more slow in that it isn't action like wars, but is interesting still in the topic. It builds for the middle and end - where the action is.

I was wondering if I should write a single story if it is my first, and is going to be fairly long, or should I make it a novel or full out story?

I also invite @John Smithers who left a well done answer to answer please. Thanks!

  • 1
    What is the difference between a "novel" and a "full out story"?
    – tylerharms
    Commented Nov 22, 2012 at 11:57
  • @tylerharms wasnt sure if ther was any. Commented Nov 22, 2012 at 23:24
  • 1
    I was going on that hunch. I think you've received some good feedback in the answers to spur you on. Good luck.
    – tylerharms
    Commented Nov 23, 2012 at 14:09

4 Answers 4


I know you've probably heard this a million times and it sounds like a generic answer, but it's really the best advice there is: Make it as long as it needs to be. Worry later about whether it's classified as a short story, novella, novel, or lengthy 10,000 page brick.

If you can get the main plot written, it will also be easier to see afterwards what scenes, characters or subplots need to be fleshed out if you feel it's too short. There really isn't any scientific way to decide this, other than gut feel after reading many novels (happy to be proven wrong, though!).

For example, maybe there's a bit-character that intrigues you, and you decide that they need to play a bigger role. It could add a whole new subplot to the story, which increases it in length from a novella to a novel, for example.

That shouldn't be your concern, though. Simply make sure your story is told exactly how you want to tell it, and conveys what you had in mind. Length is, and should always be, a secondary.

  • 1
    That's a really good advice. I had it both ways. A thing spawned from one small image in my imagination, intended to be a four-page shortie maybe, bloomed into a beast of 160k words. At a different time, I was fairly certain that I have good four chapters of the story ahead of me, then I arrived at one key point and decided: "All that remains is obvious! Let the rest play out in the reader's mind! It will be better than anything I can write anyway!" and simply ended there.
    – SF.
    Commented Nov 22, 2012 at 10:29
  • 1
    Yeah, I find I never know how much of a story is left until I actually start writing it. Something you think should be short and sweet (ie. "This will be my climax and the last quarter of my book!") turns into something else completely (ie. "Crap, that was only the middle...").
    – Lexi
    Commented Nov 22, 2012 at 23:02

If you haven't written much fiction, I'm going to make a contrary suggestion: start with the goal of writing a good short story. This is a good way to force you to really nail down the plot...and the worst that can happen is coming out with the seed(s) of a good longer piece and, in the process, you'll develop a better feel for where things really need to be expanded to tell a better story. You will also be less likely to write a longer piece where the knowledge that you have a lot of room can lead to weaker writing, too much exposition and all the other ills that you can find in many (published and unpublished) novels.

The goal is to do as @Lexi suggested: write something that is as long as it needs to be. But it might be more productive to find your way there via something designed to be short than long.

But, probably the best advice is: just charge ahead and write it. Revision is the bulk of the writing iceberg supporting the little finished product that sticks out of the murky creative waters.


Ideas are not tied to page numbers, so don't let the complexity of a character or plotline fool you into thinking you are dealing with a novel idea and not a short story idea or a play idea, for that matter. James Joyce originally planned for Ulysses to be a short story in "The Dubliners."

If you haven't written much and you want to try your hand at writing, my suggestion is to choose the form that interests you most. See where it takes you. The opposite approach, trying to fit an idea to a format, can be extremely frustrating.


If it's to be your early work - you're inexperienced - and you get to choose, I strongly suggest a short story. The pain of failure will be lesser.

For an unexperienced writer failures are inevitable. Nobody is born with skill of writing great fiction. Everyone starts with writing crap.

If you think the idea is awesome, the best I can suggest is shelve it for now and write it in some five years, when you've learned the rules of the trade and are capable of making it shine. Don't waste it on what has more than 50% chance of turning up utter crap.

Write a lot, publish online, accept criticism, improve. Experiment a lot and fail a lot. And never worry what becomes of your first story. It may be something to remember fondly or something to be ashamed of, but I don't think it will be a great success...

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