Friday, April 17, 2009

It's not how long your story is, it's what you do with it

A few months ago I submitted a 6,600-word story to a market that, at the time, was accepting stories up to 8,000 words. While waiting for a response to my submission, the publication's guidelines changed and and the maximum length is now 6,000 words.

Today my story came back with a note letting me know that the editor liked the story, reminding me of the new length requirements, and suggesting that I resubmit the story if I could cut 600+ words from it.

Cutting the first 300 words was easy. Cutting the second 300 words wasn't.

First to go: Dialog tags. All those "he said"s and "she said"s weren't necessary. Many were cut.

Next to go: Imprecision. For example: "A few minutes before six, he..." became "At six, he..."

And then: Holy crap. At this point it becomes a paragraph-by-paragraph, sentence-by-sentence, word-by-word line edit.

But I did it and the story is on its way back to the editor.


sandra seamans said...

Someone once asked me if I really watched the word count while I was writing and I said of course, the story has to fit into the market's guidlines. But I really hate when they change the guidelines after you send them a story. WW did that to me and 8 months later sent the story back saying they didn't publish that type of mystery anymore. Yeah, but you did when I sent it. Aaargh!

Michael Bracken said...

It's frustrating while a publication changes its guidelines after you've submitted a story written specifically to the previous guidelines. That's happened to me on a few occasions.

At least this time the change in guidelines only impacts story length and, because the editor liked the story I had submitted, I had the opportunity to revise and resubmit the manuscript.