I was initially going to include “taking out” as well, since they seem to be two sides of the same coin with the same basic goals (meeting a word count and improving the story). But in the end I feel like they deserve separate posts.
And it guarantees that I have soemthing to write about next week.
I know the general rule is that it’s better to take out than put in. Most writers by nature seem to put a lot more into a story, particularly in a first draft, than what the story really needs and the extraneous material is later cut. I’m the opposite in the sense that my stories are usually pretty bare bones, particularly my short stories.
So when I come across an anthology or magazine that I thin kmight be a good fit for one of my stories and then I see that the minimum word count exceeds the word count of my story, I end up asking myself whether or not it’s worth it to try to expand the story to make the count.
Obviously, it ends up depending on the story.
A few stories I’ve considered expanding are definite no-go’s. Theyr’e done. There’s nothing more to add. Anything I put in is just going to drag the story down, water it down and weaken it. Definitely not what I want.
However, because I cut to the quick so much, I have found a couple of stories that can benefit from embellishment.
I added about 1,800 words of backstory to “Land of the Voting Dead” to meet the minimum word count for an anthology that looked to be a perfect fit. It was a bit of story that I had considered only in passing while creating the character of Miriam Showalter. I was pleased to discover that the addition worked; the added backstory gave the piece more depth.
And I guess I wasn’t the only one who liked it, since it got accepted for the anthology.
I”m currently in teh process of doing the same thing to “Spillway”. I need to add about 1,800 words in order to make the word count minimum for an anthology. There’s room in the story for some embellishment that I think will end up enhancing the piece. I think it will end up being better for it.
And if I’m lucky, the anthology editors will like it, too.
Stories By The Numbers