- Keep the subplots to a bare minimum. I have two plots in my story. One is an overarching theme about having to do without fossil fuels. The other is the story of two brothers. I really had to keep it from growing. I wanted to add an aunt in there who was carrying on with the leader of the gang. But to resolve that plot would have required another 2000 to 5000 words. The more plots, the more words. If you get much over 6000 words, the number of markets you can submit to start getting limited.
- Keep the number of characters to a minimum. The more people, the more words the story requires. The aunt would have been nice in a story that is just about 100% male, but her part in it would have just complicated matters.
- Give it some drama. I get so impatient with many short stories--stories by seasoned professionals who sell lots of fiction--because they have no plots. There might be an interesting situation, or a fascinating bit of technology or magic, but no problem to overcome. As a reader, I need a problem for the story to keep my interest.
- Cut, cut, cut. Everything that isn't absolutely necessary has to go. That's why I eliminated another character that I liked--a younger sister. This was the story of two brothers, so I didn't need the sister. So poor Betsy had to go.
But still, over 8000 words was hard to cut from an 85,000 word novel. That was 10 percent!
What's the biggest chunk you've ever cut?