Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cowboy Muscle Car Story

I've finally finished the science fiction story I blogged about last month, the one with the muscle cars. I'm very happy with it. It's about 5000 words. I don't know if I'll sell it, but I learned a few things that I think will help me write future short stories.
  • 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.
On the Starcaster front, I decided to rewrite a lengthy scene from scratch. It had so many plot holes that you could have used it as a sieve. It was also one of the earliest scenes I wrote for this story. I think those two facts are related. The replacing scene (or scenes) will be about half that length, I think. And, it will integrate better into some plot-lines that I thought of later in the story.

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?


  1. Well that explains what happened Starcaster. Good luck with it.

  2. It's still coming! Please be patient with me!

  3. I can't remember my biggest cut, but I do remember each character that gets the axe. Poor things. :)

    Congratulations on the short. I hope it sells!

  4. Does ditching 95% of the novel and basically starting over count? Same approximate story, mostly different words.

  5. Thanks, Anissa! I already sent it to my top choice market.

    Ouch, Raven! 95 Percent of a novel? I've had some false starts, especially with Starcaster. And I've ditched an entire novel, of course. That one was 230,000 words.


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