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She Writes Short Shorts

Saturday, December 16, 2006
I used to joke that if someone had handed me a red pen, I could have turned War and Peace into flash fiction.

It's not funny anymore.

Every once in a while, I scribble up something to send to Woman's World magazine. They kept my first story for six months and even sent it up to the senior editor before I recieved a rejection. Not bad. That one is a free read up at Coffee Time Romance, if you're interested. Almost two years on, I see where I could have made it better, but that's life.

My second one turned around in six weeks. Intrusive third character and wrong season. Lesson learned: Don't send out Christmas stories in November.

Their guidelines are pretty simple. 1100 words, sweet romance your grandmother would read. Realistic contemporary (no para, no shiekhs/spies/billionaires), but something that might actually happen to ordinary Jane. They're also very picky and very much in tune with their market. When the editor said "intrusive third character," I knew she was absolutely right -- for her market.

Last spring I sat down to write something completely different. Phaze was doing one of their Heatsheet competitions on a Samba theme and I thought I'd give it a shot, being "between stories" at the time. So I rattled up this little beginning and realized that was really all there was to the story. It was sweet and cute and I figured I had another WW entry.

Fast Forward to now. I've been meaning to get this thing off my hard drive for months and I finally pulled it out last night. It sat at 1032 words. I edited it down to 1010 in about three minutes. Crap. Edited more. Cut it down to 1002. Crap again! It's supposed to be growing, not shrinking!

So, naturally, I went over to Romance Divas to fuss about it there. I got some good advice. Advice I would have given myself, had my head not been so far up my rear. Layer in some setting details, use senses. Hell, I even threw a couple of "he said/she said"s in there to beef up the word count.

Got all the way up to 1045 and stalled. It's currently in a fellow Diva's inbox, so I'll let it stew there for a while.
12/16/2006 11:07:00 AM : : Sela Carsen : : 10 Comments

10 Comments:

Up to 1080! And she had some wonderful suggestions about changing a few segments to fit the market better. I'm thinking I'd better write a cover letter and get this baby in the mail!

By Blogger Sela Carsen, at 4:28 PM  

Sela, you crack me up! We obviously have opposite problems. Every time I turn around, I've added another scene to one of my books. The first drafts start out around 50K and the final versions wind up being anywhere from 70-90K. I've been trying to write something short for the Amber Heat Wave contest, but I just don't think I'll be able to do it. Knowing I have to wrap the whole thing up in 18K or less makes me freeze right up. :D

Wishing you luck on the WW sub!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:16 PM  

Boy, I've never had to grow a short before. That goes against everything writers are brainwashed, I mean instructed to do :)

Good luck. You can do it...

By Blogger S William, at 12:23 AM  

Yay,Sela. I knew you could do it!

Good luck with WW.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:31 AM  

I can soooooo relate to this. I was beginning to wonder if I could write anything higher than 20K and then my 46K got contracted.
I think it's better to have to add than to delete. Self-editing is greatly appreciated by critique partners and editors. LOL.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:29 PM  

Eight hundred is a natural place to stop, but in the past, I'd been contracted to produce four typewritten pages every week. That's eleven hundred.

I'd make sure I'd have lots of three-word paragraphs and plentiful three-line drops...eats up the pica space.

Once you're in it hardly matters, but it's the getting in.

Copy editor might say "NG", but publisher might say, "No, it's great."

Talk about Either/Or,

By Blogger ivan, at 2:12 PM  

You're so funny, Sela. :):):)
I think it's very hard to write only 1,100 words.
My epub gives me the freedom to write almost any length. I've written short 30K and long 115K. If someone told me I could only write X amount of words for some reason...then I want to write more. :)
Good luck with this entry.
L

By Blogger Lara Santiago, at 7:40 PM  

Good luck! I need to dream up some more WW ideas. They've passed on all of mine so far...which makes me want it more. LOL

By Blogger JENNA, at 1:15 AM  

As a short story reader/writer, I find beefing up the word count a bad thing. It's essential in short stories that every word be NEEDED. SO, I suggest, to exptend it, add a whole 'nother scene.

Can you start the story earlier? extend the story ? is there a beginning, middle, and end to the story?

If you want more eyes on it, send it to me, I'd be happy to take a look at it. :)

By Blogger Sasha White, at 5:47 AM  

Thanks everyone! It went out in the mail yesterday. The crit I had gave suggestions that did change a few scenes a bit, thereby bumping up the word count. A bit more polishing for smoothness and clarity and my final word count was 1088!!

I still think it's just sad that I seem somewhat stuck on the short story/novella side of the fence. I truly envy people who write long. Uh-oh, I feel another blog post coming on!

By Blogger Sela Carsen, at 9:01 AM  

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