How many words tells a story?

One of my students has decided to write a novel. He’s 20 and French. His novel is a thriller with a dash of sci-fi. The premise is great, and the writing can really come together if he gives it the attention it deserves.

I’ve never had a student want to write a novel. Or at least, I’ve never had a student confess to wanting to and actually putting forth real effort. This student has written eight chapters already, and I read them in class during the moments students have to work quietly at their desks.

He has no clue how the publishing industry works. This makes him extremely optimistic about his novel’s future.

Then there is the student on the other side of the room. Today I said to him, “I want to believe that you are less interested in doing the work quickly and more interested in doing your work well.” For once he looked chastened and focused on his paragraph.

The assignment was to write a list of family members who are important to you. Pick one person from that list and write a paragraph describing your relationship.

The student who can never stay focused for more than two minutes at a time asked, “Three sentences are enough, right?”

The budding novelist across the room said, “If that’s all the relationship is worth.”


Be brief and concise. Sure. But how many words is any story worth?

4 thoughts on “How many words tells a story?

  1. “If that’s all the relationship is worth.”

    ZING! What a great line!

    I think story words should be like what Abraham Lincoln said about the length of a man’s legs – they should be long enough to reach the ground. Story words should be long enough to tell the story. 🙂

    Easy, right? 😉

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