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Trimming the Written Fat

January 30, 2012

I recently completed the first assignment for my creative writing course, which required me to develop a short story of no more than 500 words. When I first started, I did not realize that this limit had to be strictly followed, so I ended up writing almost double the amount I needed. After I found out that I had to stick to the limit, I was faced with the unfortunate task of cutting down my writing. I’m sure many professional writers have to deal with this often in the course of their lives, but I have rarely come across this problem. I am used to being given minimums rather than maximums, so this limit was quite a surprise to me. However, faced with this problem, I managed to drastically shorten my story to 496 words. Following are my realizations throughout this process.

The first step should be to eliminate unnecessary information. When working under a limit, only essential words can be kept. Once you feel that there is absolutely nothing left to cut out, a simple way to lessen the number of words is to change dialogue to paraphrasing. Summarize the conversation instead of providing a play-by-play. If this still does not shorten it enough, the only option remaining is to dispose of anything that the reader should be able to imply. While it might be preferable to explain aspects of your story that seem iffy, at the minimalistic level you have to rely on the intelligence of the reader.

If you are faced with a problem of word limits, considering the suggestions above should greatly reduce the length of your story. Good luck.

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One Comment
  1. Good word choice and sentence structure can help steer reader minds where you want them to go. I’ve found keeping this in mind helpful when writing micofiction. Regardless though, it’s hard to keep to a limit when there’s so much story to tell.

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