Last week, I had to write three short writing samples: 500 words of creative nonfiction, 400 words of literary criticism, and (because there are people who think oxymora are sexy, I also had to come up with) 300 words of original derivative fiction. By the time my muse found endings for the three pieces, I was over 390 words too chunky.
Trimming a piece of writing is about as easy as melting extra weight off of your flesh and bones. Bringing the nonfiction and literary criticism down to the desired word count wasn’t difficult. I just found different ways to say the same things, and tightened up my ideas. Getting a fictional scene into shape takes a bit more work. There are decisions to be made (What must stay in the story? What’s there just because my writer’s heart thought it was cute? What can be changed completely? What characters need to be killed out of existence?)
I reread “Thorn in Red,” the original derivative fictional piece, with the above questions (and a few others) in mind. I discovered that the setting was pure indulgence (the characters didn’t have to be in the exotic place I originally put them in); I wrote a character who added mayhem to the conflict (but the story didn’t need her, she was just wicked fun); there was a baking scene that helped with the characterization and tone (yet, the cooking took too long, and I could show the reader the same things it conveyed in a less word-consuming way).
After the nipping and tucking, “Thorn in Red” reads just right. The focus is on the characters and conflict, not on the formerly dreamy setting. And the event feels more real (methinks ;-)
How do you trim your writing, or shape your art to make it feel just right, my Wicked Luvs?