How Do You Know When to Stop?

This is a problem I do not have much in my writing: knowing when to stop.


I’m kind of an exposition fan girl. I like to stay there, obsess there, and never wrap things up. It is not my strong point, which is problematic for my future as a published author.

So it is odd to find myself in the position I’m in. I began writing what I expected to be a novel about a man and a woman with a complicated history who run into each other as adults and the situations that inevitably arise from an occasion such as that.

However, as I put my pen down at the end of what I was considering to be the first section, I realized I kind of liked the story as it was: enough back story to be interesting and catch someone’s attention, enough development to show how the characters had changed, and a tempting little end that manages to leave things open but not be an obnoxious cliffhanger. My long-winded novel had turned itself into a short story.


Is it? IS IT?!?

I put it away for a few months and came across it again today. I have more to say, certainly, but I don’t know if I should say it. As I mentioned before, wrapping things up is not my strong point. Sometimes characters stay with me even when I have an end in sight for them, and these guys aren’t doing that (I realize that makes me sound crazier than I actually am, but there you go).

So I’m crowdsourcing: how do you know when to stop? Do you like short stories that leave you hanging or do you like everything wrapped up in a nice little bow? 


4 thoughts on “How Do You Know When to Stop?

  1. Brenda Olson says:

    It is all about the journey.. I love the story telling. That is hard to accomplish in a short story. I find I love novels that keep me thinking long after the last words.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m also one of those writers who keeps writing because there’s so much I want to say, and have a very difficult time leaving characters alone. For the longest time I didn’t even THINK about short stories as something I’d do. People would tell me they were great writing exercises, and much easier to get published, but I didn’t really care since I was really only writing for myself. Then I decided to try my hand at short stories, and I think understanding what short stories are supposed to do made me realize their importance.

    Short stories are character pieces that impress an idea and highlight a moment; novels are journeys that you take with the character. I think both are very important. The journey is wonderful, and often times I’ll itch when I write a short story and want to take it farther. But a) you always CAN take it farther! Some of the best novels are simply a series of great short stories. And b) if you’re itching because you want more story, you’d better bet your reader will too. And that’s what you want. To leave your readers wanting more and thinking about it long after they’ve finished.

    I’ve noticed that as I write more short stories, my writing overall improves as I understand how to make each part in my novel more meaningful. Each story has a length that it will be best at; I think you discovered for the story you mentioned that it’s best as a short story. Perhaps it will evolve later into a longer novel. Perhaps not.

    Anyway, to answer your question: I don’t actually know when to stop. Sometimes it just feels right, and as I’ve written more, I think that feeling has been honed more. I love BOTH: those that leave you hanging and those that are wrapped up nicely. After all, even some novels leave you hanging. Some stories go on for books and books. Some need only six words. What do you feel is right?

    I hope I’ve added to the discussion and gave you something to think about!

    Liked by 1 person

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