Monday, July 5, 2010

Word Count Woes

Brevity is not my strong point.

Well, that was an ironic opening, huh? Seriously, though. I'm constantly battling unnecessary verbosity. Case in point, the first version of my opening chapter to
Kissing Glass was seventeen pages. I've gotten it down to eleven and a half, which is probably still too long. Where this really kills me, though, is in the short story genre.

It's not that I dislike writing short fiction. Half of the novels I've started began as short stories (see above re: bad at brevity.) Then they just take off and before I know it, I have 200 pages.

I'd really love to have a publishing credit because currently my resume includes...nothing. I've read that having prior publishing credits are helpful when querying agents and editors for longer works. Not 100% necessary, of course, but helpful. And since it's arguably "easier" to garner a publishing credit in the magazine market, I decided to revisit some of my short stories.

I have three completed. The problem is two of them are well over 1000 words. The third (which I actually DO really like, so it's not like I'd be subbing JUST for the credit) has been slashed to 569 words with a target audience of around first grade. Too long for
Highlights (500 word limit for that audience.) Ladybug accepts fiction up to 800 words, but I'm less familiar with that magazine. Plus, I just love Highlights. Between my childhood memories of devouring the stories and combing through the Hidden Pictures puzzles and the scholarship they gave me to attend Chautauqua in 2006, I feel a stronger pull toward Highlights than Ladybug.

So what to do? Try to slash 67 more words and sub to
Highlights? Or familiarize myself with Ladybug, add in some of what I cut, and sub to them? That's probably a silly quandary to debate, but...yeah. It's my (teensy) problem of the day.


  1. I have a hard time keeping my short stories under 10,000 words. The last one I wrote was 18k. So I think you're doing just fine. :-)

    That said, check out this online publication resource: It has tons and tons of listings of magazines (both print and electronic) that publish short fiction. Hunger Mountain ( publishes stories up to 10k.

    And you can always try chopping out 69 more words and send it off to Highlights! Sounds like that's where your heart truly lies. :-)

    Good luck!

  2. Thanks, Joanna! I bookmarked the duotrope link.

    I guess the challenge in cutting 69 words is that I already feel it's a bit choppy. I'll probably play with it, but I'm not positive I'll be able to pull it off.

    Ah well. I'll ruminate awhile longer, I suppose.

  3. I also tend to get too wordy. Today I was revising a chapter for an upcoming ten page critique at a conference. My chapter was just over nine pages, so I think, Great, I've got plenty of room. The next time I checked, my chapter was thirteen pages. Doh!

  4. I just want to say good luck and it doesn't hurt to send the story to Ladybug with the words and in the meantime get it revised to send out to Highlights if rejected. It's okay to have two or three versions in your file folder, just make sure you know the length for each one.