Cutting words to meet limits

Over the weekend I’ve been working on a couple of science fiction stories, reworking and whittling them for their intended markets. Antipodean Science Fiction, which has published a couple of my stories already, has a tight limit – around 500 words (they have a little flexibility, but not much over 500). 365Tomorrows has taken one of my stories and their limit is 600. My two current stories are 650 and 570 words respectively.

There’s a good article by Ken Rand here on the Science Fiction Writers of America site, about straightforward ways of cutting ten percent from stories and articles. That’s a good start, though having read the article a while ago I notice that I’ve been doing some of these things automatically anyway.

After that the question becomes, what can I remove without having the whole story collapse into a shambles? Perhaps I could drop the mention of the poker game in the longer story? Well, that’s important for character. But how else could I show that aspect? Perhaps if I took Karl’s character out of the other story and just let it be between Bayliss and Angela it would tighten up a bit? It feels like they need a foil, but could that just be done through the situation?

Well, I’ll keep cutting and see where it gets. Otherwise, I might just re-write them from scratch and see how they will fit with one of sites with longer limits – 1000 words feels like a lot to play with when I’ve been shooting for 500.

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