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12 Secrets to help you shorten your short story

Published : Saturday, 12 January, 2019 at 12:00 AM  Count : 819
Mia Botha

12 Secrets to help you shorten your short story

12 Secrets to help you shorten your short story

How to shorten your short story
I have created a list of things to do to shorten your story. I want to remind you that this is second draft stuff. In the first draft you will simply write, forget about the rules, the word count and write until you know what your story is about. Once you know that, write your short story.

Hint: If your short story is about 10 000 words you may have a tough time reducing it to 750 words. It is not impossible, but you might want to re-evaluate your execution or subject matter. This advice varies along with the length of your story.

You can reduce your word count in two ways:

Your writing
You can make structural changes to your writing that will reduce your word count:
1.    Cut adverbs. These are the -ly words. Replace them with strong verbs.
2.    Cut most adjectives. Sometimes we describe something for the sake of it. Make sure that description is necessary.
3.    Strengthen descriptions. By using strong nouns and verbs we can reduce the length of a description and increase the impact of that description.
4.    Use contractions. This is a simple cheat that can cut a word or two if you need to be exact. Make sure it doesn't mess with your pacing though.
5.    Remove conjunctions. Have you varied the length of your sentences?  Long sentences use many conjunctions and we can cut them when we reduce and vary the length of our sentences.
6.    Cut unnecessary words. Does the omission of a word change the meaning of the sentence? If not, cut it. Words like that, the, like, pretty, very don't add to the meaning or can be replaced by stronger words.

Your story
And then, we need to make changes to our stories to reduce our word count.
1.    Reduce scenes. Are you including backstory or explaining your character's behaviour in a scene that can be summed up in a line of dialogue?
2.    Reduce characters. Does your character need a BFF, a therapist and a patient barman to lend an ear? One of those should do the trick.
3.    Reduce settings. Each of these characters mentioned above usually comes with a setting of their own. Reduce the character and the setting and you will save words on unnecessary descriptions.
4.    Cut subplot. Short stories rarely have time or space for a subplot.
5.    Show, don't tell. Change interior thought to action or dialogue.
6.    Reduce the scope or timeframe of your story. A lifetime is easier to fit into a longer story and a moment is easier to use for a shorter story.
I hope these tips will help you write 750 words that really pack a punch.
Happy writing.

The writer is a creative writing expert

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