Friday, May 24, 2013

Economy of Word

by G.Parker

I've been doing a lot of flash fiction lately.  Most of you are familiar with mad-libs, mad-writes, etc.  It's all the same thing.  Write on a subject, use a sentence, limited word count, limited time, any way you slice it, it's about word usage.

The ones I've been doing have a maximum limit of 400 words.  Coming from someone who does NaNo every year, that's straining the capabilities.  400 words?  That's like taking the food out of my mouth as I'm about ready to chew.  Initially I thought there was a limit of 1500 when I started one, and that was going to be difficult, but doable.  I got it finished and tried to submit the story, and it came back with, duh, your word count is wayyy too high.


Have you ever tried to cut out words from a story?  I know sometimes I've had to cut entire chapters out that didn't really work, but to cut that much out of something you've managed to put on paper?  It's difficult.  I had to basically start over.  At least I still had the same story idea in mind an it was easier to do the second time, but it made me think of a contest I've heard of where they want a story in one sentence.

A full story.  I wish I could tell you the name of the contest, or send you to the link - but remember the swiss cheese brain??  It's still there.

Anyway, while we deal with large amount of words, sometimes we do have to cut back.  We live and die by the word count.  Every editor/publisher is going to want to know how many words are in your novel, article or story.  Sometimes we get wordy and have to cut back.  Sometimes we have a hard time putting the right words in.  It can go both ways.

I find that I tend to be verbose.  I like to describe in as much detail as I can, because I want the reader to have the whole picture.  But one of the things I've discovered is the little words; and, had, that, said, but, etc.  They don't always add to the story, and are usually easy to weed out.  It usually takes someone else helping me because I don't see them.  That's why we have readers and editing!

Anyway, if you really want an exercise in word usage, having to choose quality over quantity, give a flash fiction a try.  It will work the grey matter in your head - which I understand is always a good thing.  Especially for swiss cheese people, like me.

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