Hello there, Sugar here. I recently finished writing my first holiday novella. (Look out for Have Yourself a Curvy Little Christmas sometime in the late fall.) After the initial excitement of being asked to write for my publisher again, I panicked a little. I write single titles. Long single titles. Dangerous Curves Ahead weighs in at over one hundred thousand words. I’ve never written anything under ninety thousand words.
But they were asking me to tell a story in twenty-five thousand words. TWENTY-FIVE THOUSAND WORDS. Gulp. How the hell was I going to pull that off? But you know what? I did. Okay so maybe I went over by a few thousand, but I manage to tell a story using a quarter of the words I normally do.
How did I do it? I kept these five things in mind when I was writing.
1. KISS: Keep it Simple Stupid. Your idea should be simple and solid.
SIMPLE: A man reunites with the woman who left him at the alter. Together they rediscover their love for each other and learn to put the past behind them.
NOT SIMPLE : A man reunites with the woman who left him at the alter. He learns she was abducted by aliens who plan to take over the world by impregnating all brunettes under the age of forty. Only to find that her pregnancy didn’t take because she half mutant. Together they travel through time and space in an effort to stop the world from being taken over and to learn more about her secret origins.
2. Cut out all the descriptive stuff.
Yes, please do give us a clue to the setting, but don’t describe the lushness of the trees and the greenness of the grass and how the hot summer wind blows across the field and gently rustles the curtains.
In other words tell the damn story.
3. The less subplot the better.
You really don’t need to introduce us to a cast of thousands. We don’t need to know all the townspeople and their historys, foibles and quirks. We don’t need to know that Mrs. Peasly, your hero’s favorite teacher, is going to lose her house and needs a million dollars to save it. Focus on the main conflict at hand.
4. Limit backstory.
Backstory can be an important tool to let the reader know your hero’s motivation, but don’t overdo it. Sprinkle, don’t dump.
5. Cut. Cut. Cut.
Don’t be afraid to chop out passages or entire scenes. Think about every word you write. Ask yourself, “Is this necessary to tell my story?” And if the answer is no get rid of it.
That’s all I’ve got, so I’m turning it over to you, my writer friends. What advice would you give on how to write short? Any and all comments are welcome!