So, I had finally completed what I believed was a decent draft of my Shared Storytelling: Six Birds short. The characters' motivations appeared more-or-less believable. The clunkiness had gotten mostly smoothed out from the transitions. And I thought the plot seemed basically coherent. I was pleased. Then I ran a word count and suddenly wasn't at all. The result? 1,240 words.
Not a gargantuan narrative by any means. But the self-imposed limit was a thousand. I had to lose one-fifth of my story.
My first attempt at paring went easily enough. After all, I'd shorn 6,500-word manuscripts down to tidy 4,000-word lengths before, much greater trimmings than what I currently faced in both absolute and proportional terms. Out went extraneous descriptions, favorite turns of phrase, colorful internal dialogues. Simple, I thought, punching up the count again to reveal -- 1,087.
Hmmm, not quite there. The print spat out another copy, the paper still warm as I paged through. Only this time the candidates for compositional extermination didn't bravely step forward. They huddled in the shadows and screeched when I dragged them out. Seriously, this wasn't fun anymore. Another trip to the toolbar revealed I still had thirty-five words to go.
This round went beyond slicing away fat. I was into muscle and sinew and bone, trying not to cripple the thing as I cut. It hurt, truly pained me to dig this deeply merely to meet my own arbitrary standards. I did it though, got the story down to 986 words, then punched the save button and pushed away from the computer. If anything, such hard editing is an exercise in humility. Though our words seem precious to us, bought with time and toil, in truth it seems as though we can always do without some of them.
(Picture: CC 2010 by gfpeck)