Hi, everyone. Here’s this month’s question from the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
The short answer is that, for me, the story chooses its own shape and length. Now, sometimes I discover that I’ve gone down the wrong path. An idea that I thought would make a novel becomes a novella or a short story. Maybe that’s because I didn’t think it through far enough, but maybe that’s all it was ever meant to be from the start. In a few cases, I did a specific format and story line, but that was almost always for an anthology project and not my typical style.
One example was my Regency novella, Clytie’s Caller. I had the nugget of the story, and I knew what things I wanted to happen. However, it wasn’t enough to carry a full-length novel, even though it made a complete story cycle in a shorter form.
I’ve had the opposite experience as well, though. My debut novel, In The Eye of The Beholder, started out as a short story for my own amusement. However, the characters refused to be quiet, and I eventually had a full-length tale (and publishers in the UK and US).
The bottom line is that each author’s process is unique to them. Whether you decide in advance to write a steampunk novelette, or a full-length space opera just pops out of your pen, that’s okay. Do what works best for you.