How long?

the long drop: open air toilet

So how long should a story be? As long as it needs to be is usually the answer I give. When I first started writing them my stories seemed to consistently be 1000-2000 words. Then they got shorter, though I've yet to spend time working a great deal on shorty-shorts or micro-shorts. I think there are a lot better writers than me doing it (Josephine Rowe, for example) and it kind of reminds me of that intensity of writing poetry, which - except for the occasional stormy effort - I've pretty much left by the wayside.

Enter 'The Caretaker' (no no, not the excellent Harold Pinter play). This is a story I started over a year ago as 'Defrag'. Then it became 'In the time of Camels'. (I love playing with titles). But at over 5000 words, and nowhere near finished, this is a story - I finally conceded today - that is going to be much longer than any other story I've written. And yet I've persisted - until today - in thinking I can tidily finish it up in 5000 words or less. Now that I've let go of that arbitrary word count thingy, I've started to feel excited and enjoy the possibilities. I can see that the story has chapters and the first chapter ends with a character plunging head first into a long drop. Hey, it's a work in progress.

So, how long should a story be? As long as it needs to be. Obviously.

BTW, if you're interested in micro shorts, check out Spineless Wonders, 'Small Wonder': An anthology of prose poems and microfiction from 30 Australian Writers. I have it. It's a bloody good read, exspecially for the time-pressed.

PS Here's a sample from 'The Caretaker':
Shi Shi Pop asked Madame Te how someone with such varied tastes and a zest for life ended up a hermit caretaker of an abandoned airport in the heart of Australia. 
Madame Te replied: "The silence. The stars. They make me feel like an explorer."
It was then I imagined myself with her, two explorers together, both bent forward against the weather, our heads covered to protect us from the heat and dust and flies.   
Shi Shi Pop pressed her to say more but she only laughed. 
"Look up!" she said. "Look up!"