When I completed Story #15, it weighed in as the longest short story I’d ever written, 5,700 words. The story is sword & sorcery again, called “Hawk’s Landing.”
It was inspired by a new Science Channel series called Blind Frog Ranch. I saw the commercial, heard “blind fog,” and thought of the Tule fogs in California. Those can get so bad that you have twenty car pileups because no one can see ahead of them.
Inner critic showed up before I started writing the story. I was doing a new release, an omnibus of five short stories called Tales From Depths. I keep seeing the category of Sea Stories on all the publishing sites. So inner critic was like, “No, no, you have to write a sea story.” I already had the idea, I’d done some research (on fog and spatial disorientation), so I went with it.
After I finished the story, I gave the inner critic a job, which it very much enjoyed. Edit the story for the word ‘was.’ I saw a post from Dave Farland and thought “Why not?”
On my second draft, the major cycling pass where I do a lot of clean up, I let the inner critic loose with this.
I ran a search and replace for the word was, highlighting it in yellow. There were 66 in the story.
I ran a check for typos using Grammarly. This is just a quick step so I can save a little time during the cycling process. It won’t find everything, but it does better than the native spell checker in Word.
I started reading the story from the beginning. Most of what I did here was housekeeping. Shortening sentences, cleaning up what I call flotsam. I’m a kitchen sink writer, which means I put things into the story that might end up never being used. So out came three paragraphs about a whistle, I lost two kerosene lanterns and added one, and searched on three character names to make sure I hadn’t changed them (two I did. Sigh).
For the ‘was’ sentences, I focused on changing the wording. In some cases, I simply deleted the sentence. It was a little challenging, and something you’d do on an editing pass, not while creating.
But between it and the flotsam, the story tightened up to 5,300 words. The instances of was when I finished: 18.
From 66 to 18 is a good edit.
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