I used to spend a lot of time worrying about how long my stories were. When I was writing my first book I was constantly looking up at the word count, gauging how much longer I had to write before I had a “book” on my hands. In my mind, big writers wrote big books. At the time Harry Potter was the thing, and people were agog that their children were reading these 700 page tomes. Meanwhile, my own book was looking like it might fill 250 pages.
But lately I’ve come to realize that the length of a story isn’t as important as I thought it was. This year I read Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea for the first time, and it touched me deeply and profoundly. But The Old Man and the Sea is barely long enough to be considered a novella. It certainly doesn’t come close to touching the length of the works of today’s popular authors like Stephen King or J. K. Rowling, and yet it towers above those works in terms of pure quality.
Reading The Old Man and the Sea helped me to realize that I shouldn’t worry so much about how long a story is; I only need to worry about how good it is.