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01/28/2014

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Ellen Andersen

Fun exercise, Al! I narrowed it down to 350. It's harder to do with our own work.

Rick Barry

Over the years I've sold quite a few short stories, far more than my two published novels to date. You're correct that short fiction is whole other creature. My phrase is, "Short stories are the SWAT teams of fiction: You go in, do the job, then extract quickly." No leisurely character development. No unnecessary description.

Charles W. Short

Honestly I have grown to love flash fiction. I read it a lot, and have come to enter several contests a week. I would like to get a Christian Weekly Contest running in the next couple of weeks. For all the challenges involved it lets us read and write amid a hectic schedule.

Here is your post in 200 words. But this much cutting might be a little too much.

A few months ago, I was contacted by someone who wanted to post one of Al’s Axioms on their website:

“Writing is putting words on the page; great writing is taking words off the page.”

Writers love words and, therefore, have a tendency to use as many as possible, which leads to bad writing. Concise writing is clear writing so I spend a lot of time cutting the fat from my work.

Ben Wolf, of Splickety (click here to see my interview with Ben) is featuring me in an upcoming issue and asked for a piece of flash fiction. Flash fiction is a short-short-short story. A story concept raised its hand and said, “Ooh, ooh, pick me.” So I did and started.

A thousand words isn’t much. I finished the story with 2500 words! I had to evict 1500 words. Sixty percent. I’m happy to report that I did it.

The point is this: We can tighten our work more than we think.

Just for fun, edit this piece down. See how much you can tighten this post. The post is 590 words as it stands. Let me know how you do in the comments section.

Sharyn Kopf

I got it to 208, Alton.

***

I have a saying:

“Writing is putting words on the page; great writing is taking words off the page.”

When I edit for clients I repeatedly see prolixity—the use of too many words. Writers love words and tend to use as many as possible. This leads to bad writing. Concise writing is clear writing.

Over the weekend, Ben Wolf, editor at Splickety, wanted to feature me in an upcoming issue and asked for a piece of flash fiction, which is a short-short-short story. Here’s the problem: I’ve never been able to sell a short story. Still, an old concept resurfaced and said, “Pick me.” So I did and started writing.

A thousand words isn’t much. I throw that much away most days. I finished quickly, checked the word count: 2500! I had to evict 1500 words. This was going to require another cup of coffee.

I spent Saturday morning reworking. And I did it. It only took seven or eight attempts. The point is: We can tighten our work more than we think.

I sometimes feel like someone trying to pack everything needed for a trip into one suitcase. They should either get another suitcase or take stuff out.

Writers must be open to taking stuff out.

Donnalynn Davis

15: “Writing is putting words on the page; great writing is taking words off the page.”
;) (sorry, Al)

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