Do you feel (or your readers) feel as though your stories drag on too long? Do you struggle getting to the point of the story? Story length is a function of focus. When you (or your editor or teacher) has a keen understanding of the what the story is about, it will be easier to revise your work.

Here are some approaches to help ensure that every word counts.

  • Discuss the scope of your story early in the process with a teacher or editor.
  • Cut any elements that do not advance the focus of the story.
  • Mark passages that could be trimmed in a space crunch. Consider cutting them yourself.
  • Choose an appropriate shorter form or genre. Don’t write an epic when you need a sonnet.
  • Begin the story as close to the end of the narrative line as possible.
  • Prune the big limbs, then shake out the dead leaves.
  • Negotiate a length and then stick to it.
  • Practice cutting 10 percent, even 20 percent, of any draft you think is “finished.”

Taken from Help! for Writers, a self-directed course by Roy Peter Clark at Poynter NewsU.

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