A few weeks ago I came across a flash fiction competition. A whole story in 500 words.
500 words! For a beginning, a middle and an end. Since I write mostly crime fiction that means Commit – Investigate – Solve.
Figuring that it couldn’t be done, I put the idea aside to look for something else. The something else was a short story competition. In writing that story I created two new characters that work for short bursts. Don’t really know why, this is remarkable for me, usually getting under 5000 words a challenge.
I decided to write how these two met, and managed it in 752 words. Then I wondered if I could use this as an exercise to see if I could get it down to 500 words. So I got out my red pen and started cutting.
Out went one unnecessary support character. Out went a bit, but importantly not all, of the socialising between my two leads. I had to get rid of a tell or two turning them into shows, which didn’t help the word count, but helped me figure out what to keep and what not to. Some conclusions had to be jumped to but I still had to provide the evidence for them. I got economic with my vocabulary and finally got it down to 500 words. Yay!
Then the scary bit. I gave it to my husband to critique. I know lots of spouses get used in this way and mine is particularly useful for pointing out things like:
- You can’t spell (really can’t)
- That sentence doesn’t make sense (grammar errors)
- How did that happen? (logic gaps)
So he pointed out things like two sentences had to be rewritten because I’d forgotten to show the reader how the characters got to that point. So changes were made and the painful word count regained.
Then came the really scary part – I sent it to my sister to critique. I know, she’s my big sister – how harsh is she going to be? VERY!
This woman publicly stated on FB that she wanted to hate my writing. She was actually really useful because she told me where the story grated for her – mostly the conclusion jumping – and that told me what I had to make better. So I did.
Another rewrite, another edit to get to the word count, but I got there and I thank to both my ‘editors’ for their contributions.
Then I read it again.
Then I re-read it. Didn’t find any more amendments I wanted, so I sent it off to the competition.
That night in bed, I suddenly remembered the perfect word I’d been looking for, but settled for something less.
The moral, if there is one, is: nothing is impossible (unless you don’t try).
Oh, and if you have time, always leave a piece overnight then read it again before sending it off.
Bye for now.
PS – Guess how many words including these