Today Bradley Publishing is having a sale on my short horror story anthology, Just Shadows. Instead of 2.99, pay only 1.49!
JUST SHORT ENOUGH
The term “word count” is familiar to any author, no matter if they write long novels or micro fiction. But the term is probably most important to those who write shorter stories, like flash fiction.
Most flash fiction is 1000 words or less, though some websites define it as 500 words, maximum. But no matter how you define it, one thing is cut and dry: word count is everything. It defines the story arc, giving the action precise limits, demanding that each word be essential to the action, or face the chopping block. When you have that few words, you can’t afford to waste one that doesn’t convey plot, mood, or meaning.
My first experience with word count was a 24-hr contest I entered. The topic was given in a paragraph. The limit was 900 words, firm. I wrote the story I wanted to write, and then checked the word count. It was 1200 words. Panicked, I began paring down, then checked again. Still too long by over a hundred words. I pared down to the absolute max, then checked again. Still too long.
That day, I wrote and rewrote the story, checking the word count again and again. Each time, I was either under and the story was choppy, or the story was complete and I was over the limit. Frustrated and tense as a spring, I pushed myself to keep reworking, to make the deadline with an engaging story. Hours later, I finished with 2 words to spare, at 898 words. It had been arduous, but I’d done it. Excited and relieved, I sent it off, sure I would place, if not win the prize.
I didn’t win the contest. I didn’t even get an honorable mention. But the experience gave me the skills to convey my story arc in the least number of words possible. I could write an interesting story in a set number of words, if I just worked at it. Further, I was sure that I could do it for stories from my own imagination. I’d learned something valuable and I couldn’t wait to put it to use.
I went on to place many horror stories, and then longer works, most recently Just Shadows, my anthology of horror stories from Bradley Publishing. And my story that failed to win? I sold it a year later to the Halloween Alliance, where it still resides online for all to enjoy. J
Tara Fox Hall’s writing credits include nonfiction, horror, suspense, erotica, and contemporary and historical paranormal romance. She also coauthored the essay “The Allure of the Serial Killer,” published in Serial Killers - Philosophy for Everyone: Being and Killing (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010). Her first e-novella, Surrender to Me, was published in September 2011. Her first full-length novel, Lash, will publish in April 2012. She divides her free time unequally between writing novels and short stories, chainsawing firewood, caring for stray animals, sewing cat and dog beds for donation to animal shelters, and target practice. Her most recent publication is the anthology of short suspense and horror stories, Just Shadows.