a different approach

Let’s get back to writing.

You may know the situation: you have a story that’s not quite working. You show it to some people, and get a couple of very different responses. You may have submitted it somewhere, and one or two people, including most likely, the editor of the magazine where the story was rejected, say that the story is too long and you should cut some aspect.

OK, you’ve done that, but now the story is soul-less. Because what you’ve cut was an element of worldbuilding, and the story has become white-roomy and bland. Yes, the plot may move more quickly, but there is nothing special about the story anymore.

Yes, I’ve just done all this. I had a story that was about 9000 words, cut it and cut it and cut until it was 5500 words, and am now left with a story that’s complete but bland.

In cutting, in listening to the ‘cut this’ as standard response to something the reader found boring, I probably made a mistake. I shouldn’t cut it. I should expand it. I should spend time working the worldbuilding elements into the story in such a way that the characters engage with them. There is a lot more in this story than a one-horse plot, but for it to come out it needs more words, not fewer. This is not a short story. It’s a novella.

Recognise this feeling?

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6 comments on “a different approach

  1. I think that there’s a balance between world-building and plot. You can’t cut one and not the other. However, the characters have to interact with the world, not just think about it.
    “I love my new plasma ionic steam iron with psych interface and a troll to use it” = bleh
    vs
    “I crushed the troll with my new plasm ionic steam iron, with just a thought sent through the psych interface” = better

  2. That just happened to me, actually. I wrote a 9000 word story that just didn’t have enough meat on the bones to support the complexity of the characters or situation. I got cranky at that point, ’cause this story can’t possibly be my first novel. It’s on the back burner now.

    So yes, I recognize the feeling. A worthy post, good lady.

  3. I think you’re right. Sometimes when something is slow or not working, cutting isn’t the best response. Sometimes reworking it, making it more focused or giving it a bit of TLC can make the story better.
    Thanks for sharing this insight.

  4. Every word has to pull its weight, but sometimes there’s a big job to do. Had a novella recently go from 24k to 30k for the second draft. I’m a third of the way through the next round, and it’s grown another thousand words. The story is the same, but the world is getting bigger. Well, and a secondary character is getting a bit more face time with the reader because she’s demanding it.

    • as long as the character is interacting with the extra setting, and as long as the extra words bring tension, there shouldn’t be a problem. Skinny isn’t always the best way to tell a story. It’s easy to make it too sparse and cut the life out of it

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