Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ex-Size ...

The most recent short story I completed is set near Toronto. I had OnSpec in mind for the first submission try since the magazine is published in Canada. Their guidelines are very clear on maximum word count: 6,000.

My story clocked in at 6,371.

A little daunting. I had already pared it down quite a bit. Could I get rid of another page and a half? Looking at it another way, 16 words per page had to be cut. That seemed possible.

Red pen in hand, I went at it. Something strange happened. I enjoyed editing. Usually I can't stand it, not because I think every word is perfect the moment it flows from my fingertips. Just that I want to move on already to the next thing. But I buckle down and do it, again and again and again.

This time, it was like a game. Word search with a scalpel. Tight sentences became snare drums. I looked hard then harder eventually cut two whole sentences. The words helped, but not enough. Like party crashers, they weren't missed after they were gone.

A new strategy for editing? On the next story, I'll pretend I need to cut the text down by a certain percentage and see if it works.

6 Comments:

Anonymous cheryl said...

It's amazing what we can find to toss when the story HAS to be shortened. I recently trimmed one by 171 words to take it to 500 exactly, and was shocked at how easy it was.

July 17, 2007 at 3:36 PM  
Blogger Steve Buchheit said...

It's always good to have a goal. :)

Let the red ink flow like wine. Dance to the Bacchanalia orgy of editing. Or mix your metaphores in a cuisinart. Your choice.

Good job, Todd.

July 17, 2007 at 9:33 PM  
Blogger Todd Wheeler said...

Cheryl: Yes, indeed. Which makes me wonder how well it will work when I merely want to edit in that way rather than have to do it.

Thanks Steve. Never mix, never worry.

July 17, 2007 at 9:56 PM  
Anonymous cheryl said...

I hear that 10% is a good rule. Although it depends on if you write lean or kitchen-sink the first draft.

July 18, 2007 at 1:45 PM  
Blogger Camille Alexa said...

I began to get the same way when I started writing micro-fic (particularly the 120-word stories for Black Box). Even my Sporty Spec piece had to be trimmed about 70 words or so to squeak in at about 998.

July 18, 2007 at 10:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Wheeler said...

Sounds like a good rule, Cheryl. I write leaner than I should. But then, I also procrastinate cutting things I know need to go.

Camille: With flash fiction, knowing what the limit to begin with made it easier for me to keep it close to that number or slightly over.

I wonder if that would work for longer stories. More likely, I'd be obsessively checking the word count every three sentences.

July 19, 2007 at 1:21 AM  

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