8 ways to write shorter stories

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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    Vicki Krueger

    Vicki Krueger has worked with The Poynter Institute for more than 20 years in roles from editor to director of interactive learning and her current position as marketing communications manager.

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