How is such slicing and dicing possible, you ask? You must take a surgeon's scalpel to your writing and cut it unmercifully, but for the purpose of healing. If you cut words correctly, your piece will be healthier for the word-surgery.
500+ words over: Ask yourself whether you've tried to accomplish too much in one story. A short story should have one well-developed main character; you don't have much space to tell more than one story. Do all the events in the story accomplish your purpose? For the 1,500-word category, you have enough words for only a couple scenes. Each scene should move your character toward a single focused climax. If your hero is fighting dragons and suddenly remembers that he needs toothpaste at the grocery store, take out the grocery store (unless, of course, toothpaste is essential to your character's development). Short stories should start en media res, or in the middle of the action. The beginning of the story is not the time for you to give a vacuous wind-up of the character's past history, friends, and relations.
<200 words over: You'd be surprised how easy it is to trim out some unwanted words without losing content. For example, do a search in your story for the word "that." "She knew that he would come" loses nothing when it's shortened to, "She knew he would come." Try to make every word tell. Take out adjectives and adverbs and replace them with stronger verbs, i.e. "she cried loudly" to "she wailed," or "he ran quickly" to "he sprinted." It will save you words and make your writing stronger.
You can also remove trite, overused words such as "quite," "very," "perhaps," and "suddenly." (Don't warn us the crash is sudden before it happens; crash that car and let us be surprised!) Let's take the 85-word opening paragraph to this blog post as an example:
The Call to Pens deadlineThe new version is only 60 words. We've lost 25 words of fat and our writing is healthier for it.
is very quickly approachingapproaches! With only a week left to go, you've written the perfect story. There is only one problem:But you're over the word limit. Those angry numbers stare at you and perhapsyou wonder how on earth you canto sacrifice your wonderfulcreation for an to meet a seeminglyarbitrary rule. ButAs an editor and a journalist, I know can tell you thatit's possible. Often, you can strengthen your writing by cutting out a lot of quiteunnecessary words.
Be a fearless editor, my friends! We are looking forward to reading your creations.
For the judges,