Story Length

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Synonyms: Word Count
See also: Fanwork, Fanfiction
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Contents

Story Length refers to the overall length of a fanfiction work, sometimes right down to the exact word count.

Page Count

In the world of print fan fiction and zines, length wasn't measured in word count, but in page count. While page count became one important way of measuring the content and relative value of fanzines in comparison to their sale price, this method of measure could be a highly inaccurate measure of content due to white space, whether the print was reduced, whether or not the title page and table of contents constituted content, and whether or not the both sides of the page were used.

As desktop publishing software in the 1990s made it easier for fanzine publishers to adjust margins, insert columns, and fiddle with font sizes, word count was considered by many the only reliable way of determining the 'actual' size of the fanzine. Over time, fanzine publishers began including word count information in their zine flyers and the lack of the information was often considered a red flag to the buyer. Other fans felt that the value of a zine could never be measured by objective standards such as page or word counts, but more by individual subjective standards based on the quality of the artwork and the writers. Of course, since subjective standards had limited applicability, word count remained a valuable tool for prospective readers for many years. Or, as one reader, explained: "I also like it when publishers include a word count -- that way I can figure out how much "value" I am getting." [1]

File Size

In the early days of fanfiction online, sites and authors usually listed their story size based on file size or bytes, so that a story listed as 24K was understood to be 24,000 bytes. Some still do so today, see for example Speranza's fanfic page and the Ink Stained Fingers archive. This practice gave way to word count as the usual marker of story size, and 24K would now be expected to mean 24,000 words. Some fans can be confused when encountering older style stories, and older fans experienced some confusion when encountering word count styled like an old file size for the first time.[2]

Classifications

Fandoms have developed their own culture around the classification of stories by length. Not all fandoms agree on the terms, but they do often vary significantly from the definitions used by the professional publishing industry. See the links below for more details on fannish definitions. Some of these terms have changed in meaning overtime, partly due to fannish drift, but also partly as a response to technological change. Fanfiction in shorter lengths has grown in popularity while the minimum length for something to be called a Big Bang has been shrinking to as little as 10,000 words.[3] There are even communities dedicated to ultra-short forms, such as 1sentence. However many fans enjoy longer stories more than short ones, for example in a poll by kestrelsan of over 330 participants more than 55% answered that they get most enjoyment from stories over 20k words length, and over 64% said they think stories they read would be better if they were longer.[4]

References

  1. Morgan Dawn, email dated Jan 29, 2002 to Zinelist, quoted with permission.
  2. This happened to me the first time I read something on Livejournal, but that's the only cite I have. facetofcathy, March 31, 2010.
  3. Polyamory Big Bang rules, accessed March 31, 2010
  4. kestrelsan. 5k, 10k, 20k.... posted 19 Nov 2008 (accessed 31 Mar 2010)
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