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May 16, 2012

            Going back through some of my published short stories, I found that the final scene count varied. The Walk Home had four. The Basement had seven. Don’t Mess With A Snorg had five. Fun In The Outland had six. In those examples, all still had the same basic three elements consisting of the beginning, the middle and the end.

            Let’s consider the end, or the outcome of your story. What are you trying to accomplish? Do you want to leave the reader with a smile on their face? A tear in their eye? Leave them hanging? Whatever that might be sets your path. Compacting that path is the trick. That’s one reason you can’t clutter the story with too many point of view characters, too much description, and too much narrative.

            Though this wasn’t a short story, per se, I once did a term paper for a college class. I forget the actual subject, yet I remembered the process. Go figure! The paper had to be so many pages, so many words, just like a short story. I had a subject with several parts to explore. I found one of those parts easy to research and came up with a lot of info. When it came down to writing the report, the words flowed out. Before I knew it, I’d gone way over the page and word count, yet what I’d finished was just one piece of the puzzle and still had to address the rest of the parts that needed to be combined to make the Big Kahuna. I could’ve ended up with a novelette for a rather mundane term paper, except I didn’t have near the inspiration for the other parts.

            That anecdote applies to your short story. Don’t get caught up in a scene and forget about the big picture. You have a goal, the ending to get to. Don’t get lost in the middle and forget that you have a limit, or lose your direction and fizzle out. If it becomes all that important to keep going, I strongly suggest you forget about the short story and turn it into a full-blown novel. Follow your muse!

            To me, the whole point of writing is because I love to write, to create and to follow my muse. That should be the same for you. Unless you are under a contract, or are being somehow forced to write this short story, don’t let it hold you back. On the other hand, if you just get carried away with a huge scene, but lose direction when it comes to wrapping up the rest of the story, time to back away and let it sit until you figure out what’s going on. You can always pare down the over-long scene. That’s called editing.

            Let’s look at the opposite extreme. Say, you write your short story and you say what you have to in a lot less words than you expected. Your goal was four to five thousand words, but the story is five hundred. Is that bad, or did you just accomplish your goal too soon? Look at what you have. Does it have all the elements you wanted or did you just get in a rush to finish it? Can you expand any of the narrative or dialogue? Does it need to be? Let someone else read it. If they like it and they’re not your mom or a close friend or underling, maybe it’s okay. Just remember the well word cliché, Don’t fix something that isn’t broke!

            Finally, it’s time to find somewhere to get it published. If you already have a word count, then I’m assuming you have a place to submit. If not, start looking. The only thing I suggest, which I’ve mentioned before and I cannot emphasize enough, never EVER pay to have your story published! EVER!

            Until next time, happy writing!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Ann Marquez permalink
    May 16, 2012 5:36 pm

    My Muse always drops off the beginning and end to inspire me … and then she leaves. (I swear I can hear her muted laugh as she floats away. 😉 She’s such a b#*%! ) So I’m left with having to fill in everything in-between on my own. It’s always a struggle. 😀

    • May 17, 2012 1:27 am


      Hah! Luckily I haven’t had that problem yet. Don’t know where it comes from.

      Your muse is there somewhere, you just have to wait for it to come back! It always does or you’d never finish, right?

      Thanks for the feedback!


  2. Ann Marquez permalink
    May 22, 2012 12:07 am

    Fred, I’ve nominated you for several more blogging awards. I’ll publish the post in just a bit 😀

  3. May 31, 2012 3:43 am

    Thank you for warning people regarding payment for publication! This is such a racket. I am also very much concerned with the recent upsurge in self-publication. The quality is just not there. The mediation of a editor is a necessary component of publishing. Let’s call it what it is – Vanity Publishing!

    • June 1, 2012 2:13 am


      First off, welcome to my web site!

      Second, thanks for the absolutely true comments. Yes, that’s what it is, vanity publishing. What it amounts to is no filter, no quality. It IS a racket. Write anything and get it published, as long as YOU pay for it.


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