Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Size matters

It's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. My current insecurity is to do with word count. Not so much the lack of it* as getting it under control. I want to write nice, lighthearted short stories - say around 900 words. I keep getting ideas for much longer stories.

*Although when it comes to the novel that is a concern.

The problem isn't that I'm padding them out and waffling (despite what darling hubby says) but that my plot ideas are too complex for my desired word count. Do you have any tips for keeping it simple?

Maybe having a go at this 50 word competition will help? Thanks to Della for highlighting it.

Size matters with other things too - cake, glasses of wine, bars of chocolate ...

52 comments:

  1. A while back I had a phase of writing only 200-400 word stories. They were quite involved and it was impossible to write them any shorter. Recently, though I've had a spell or writing short ones... strange.

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    1. Maybe we get into the habit of writing to a particular length, Wendy?

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  2. That's why I write so few short stories, Patsy.

    Perhaps there might be some element within those longer ideas that could be taken out for a short story...

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    1. There have been times when I've split a longer story into two shorter ones, Carol. Usually only after I've gone off on a complete tangent though.

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  3. Try writing a flash fiction story. Keep the word count between 250-750. It's amazing what you can write. For blog posts I like short and simple, usually due to time. And I like to hop around.

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    1. Yikes, even my blog posts have got longer lately, Cathrina! I really must get myself under control.

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  4. I am still learning the art of KISS. Keeping it short is not one of my strong suits. I tend to write then slash.

    Elsie
    AJ's wHooligan in the A-Z Challenge
    co-host IWSG

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    1. Now slashing is something I'm getting better at, Elsie!

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  5. Have you tried keeping your short fiction to a much smaller slice of the protag's life? A moment--one action--and it's immediate consequences, rather than any long-term effect on the the protag's life?

    (Now I want cake. *grin*)

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    1. Oh I've tried it, Linda - tried and failed! I will try harder.

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  6. I have that same problem with keeping it short. It seems like I'm usually struggling to cut 30-40% of the page length. First to go for me is usually adjectives and adverbs, followed by unnecessary dialogue.

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    1. I usually do a 'tightening edit' on anything I write, Bob to lose unnecessary words. It helps a bit.

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  7. Perhaps we go through phases beyond our control. I used to be able to write short stories but now I find that the characters lead me away from this. Perhaps I should read more short stories to get back into sync with them? It's amazing how a brain can program these things. It does the same with poetry.

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    1. I think you're right that it's a phase, Fanny. I used to write shorter stories all the time.

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  8. I finfd the problem begins when my characters start talking, and won't shut up.

    Is that cake home-made or googled? It looks wonderful (and I'm not usually a fan of cake).

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    1. It's hard to cut it when they say interesting things, isn't it?

      I made the cake. It had ground almonds in it as well as a whole pot of raspberry jam. I made the jam too. And grew the raspberries.

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  9. Oh, I know how to keep it simple! But you probably want more words than my version of simple.
    Maybe time to tackle something longer?

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    1. It could be that my subconscious is telling me to work on the novel, Alex.

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  10. Short (my stories) and sweet (your cake)

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    1. Perhaps I should just type for as long as it takes me to eat a cake, Linda? They'd be short then.

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  11. Two things I have learnt.

    If it doesn't move the story forward, cut it!

    If a character start to take over. Shoot them.

    Joking aside, the best short stories seem to be in a very short time frame, perhaps in only an hour of the characters life, so if yours are running over days, maybe something to look at there. Otherwise, maybe its time you tried to write a serial?

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    1. The first tip is very good, Maria. The second I'm less sure of, although shooting everyone would bring it to a speedy close!

      I would like to try a serial. I'll keep that in mind for the next time a story really runs away with me.

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  12. I have the opposite problem, too few words. I say let it be the length it wants to be. Maybe write some novellas instead of short stories, if the idea is too complex for a short. Either way, good luck!
    Also, I love your new profile photo! Looking good! :)

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    1. Letting the story be the length it wants to be sounds sensible, Rachel.

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  13. Why not write the complex stories first and get them out of your head leaving room for the simpler ones. And now I really fancy a piece of cake, thanks Patsy!!

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    1. I've been doing that, Tracy but I just get more complex ideas!

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  14. I only wish I had your problem Patsy. All my stories seem to finish well under 1000 words, which is great for flash fiction, but not much good for anything else. Prima do a monthly story asking for a 900 word count. I think that's about my limit. That cake looks delicious - not only did you make the jam, but grew the raspberries as well. I'm impressed.

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    1. I can see only coming up with short ideas would be equally annoying, Maggie. There's always something, isn't there?

      Prima are asking for 800 words in the latest issue. You could definitely do that.

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  15. You got me on the chocolate part. The bigger the better in that category.
    It would seem writing short stories is easier than writing a novel, but I recently worked on a short story for an anthology and learned just how hard being concise can be.

    Spending time on Twitter helps because saying it in 140 characters cuts out all the fluff.

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    1. Word for word short stories are probably harder than novels, Gail. We do need a lot less words though.

      Yes, twitter proves we can express ourselves in very few words if we really try.

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  16. I used to think I'd never be able to write flash fiction because all of my ideas demanded to be novels. Until I got a few ideas for flash fiction. What I've noticed is that after the beginning there is usually just one event before the climax. Keeping the number of plot events to a minimum tends to shortens stories. With complex ideas though, it maybe have to be longer. The good thing is there are markets for longer short stories. I found one for my debut, Hurricane Crimes, which is about 50 pages long.

    Whatever you do, don't limit your stories to a certain word count expectation. Let them expand to their full potential. :)

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    1. Thanks, Chrys. I think you're right about not forcing a story to fit a length. Better to think up a new idea.

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  17. I've had this problem before. I sometimes have to come up with another story idea. One that fits in a shorter space.

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    1. That does seem to be the best answer, Lynda.

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  18. It took me ages to stop gazing longingly at that cake! If I need to shorten something or tighten it up, I sometimes get rid of a character x

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    1. I can see that would work well, Teresa.

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  19. Mine is usually the opposite problem - some of my stories don't want to be longer ones!

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    1. I'll probably find that as soon as I want to write longer ones, Rosemary.

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  20. All you need is a character with a goal and a problem - simple.

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    1. Put like that it does sound simple, Keith.

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  21. I have the same problem. I guess we just think big!

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    1. That's a good way of looking at it, Elizabeth.

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  22. Let your complexity flourish, Patsy.
    Then you can trim it and make it shine!

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  23. Ah, cake, wine and chocolate... my three favorite words in the world. LOL Mathair and I have the same problem, Patsy. We come up with ideas that deserve the fullness of a novel because of their intricacy and depth. Chopping, cutting, removing... these are words that cause writers to shudder and protectively cradle their stories to their chests. We try to remember to tell the story with as little embellishments as possible, sticking to the straight and narrow, but stories have a way of snaking around and weaving into something that not even its creator could foresee. I wish I could give you our way of dealing with it, but we're still trying to tackle that beast. Good luck

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    1. I can tell you've experienced exactly the same issue as I have!

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  24. Yup, I do this too. I find short stories very difficult, simply because I can't keep them short! I definitely have a novel writer's mentality (even though I've never managed to complete a novel...)

    Saying that, I did enter a Flash Fiction comp for the first time ever today, so maybe there's hope.

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    1. I would like to do a serial, Trisha. I might give it a bash.

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  26. I get into a certain rhythm I find. If I write short for a while it's hard to write long and vice versa. So maybe it's just trying a few in a row. Hope that might help. x

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    1. Thanks, Della. I'm sure you're right and writing to a certain length becomes a kind of habit.

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Thanks so much for commenting!