Writing–Taking Out

Last week I wrote about adding in to make a word count; this week I’m going to talk about taking out.

This is something I don’t have to do very often. Like I said before, I’m very bare bones. I usually fall below word count maximums.

Unless it’s flash fiction.

I typically don’t set out to write flash fiction, but my shorter short stories sometimes put me in that ballpark. And if I can find a place that suits the story, I’ll look to start cutting to make the word count.

Since flash fiction doesn’t offer much in the way of extra words and since my story is pretty short to begin with, I’m not usually cutting huge chunks of story; it’s typically just a couple of hundred words. Which doesn’t sound too difficult, but when what you’ve got is what you NEED to tell a story and you can’t lose much of anything or risk losing the integrity of the story, it’s pretty hard.

That’s when creativity and word choice become critical.

Granted, word choice is always important, but it’s a true test when cutting a story that really can’t afford much cutting. I have to say even more with one word because that’s all I’ve got.

This cutting also forces me to get creative with my sentence structure. No time for detours, I have to get right to the point. I have to state the idea as quickly and succinctly as possible without compromising grammar (too much), flow, style, readability, or enjoyment.

I’ve done this to a few stories, however so far the success is only measure by my actually getting it done to my own satisfaction. I’ve yet to get any flash fiction accepted for publication. Not for lack of trying, though.

And it’s nice to know that I have the cutting tools I need to make my stories better.

Stories By The Numbers

 -Submitted: 2
-Ready: 8
-Rejected: 1 (“Such a Pretty Face” once again finds no love)

Writing–Adding In

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

-Submitted: 3
-Ready: 7
-Accepted/Rejected: 0