Archive for October, 2010

Stark, it lay on my desk, a scant reflection of its former fat and juicy self; my best short story with a beginning that brought the reader in, a middle that fleshed out and brought the story to a climax, and an ending that even had what I thought was a clever twist.
When I turned it in, I thought I would get at least an A or maybe even an A+, but, when she handed it back to me, red ink dripped from it like fresh blood. Then she gave me a new assignment. One I had feared and which I knew would prove difficult.
“It’s too long.” My freelance writing instructor said without a stutter or hesitation. “It’s too wordy. Cut it down to fifteen hundred words.” She spun and strutted back to her desk.
Right off, I knew this old gal was out of her tree, fifteen hundred words! Why, that would be a skeleton, something less than an outline. However, she was the teacher and I was there to learn. So, I sharpened up my knives, bought a new blade for my hacksaw and polished up my heavy cleaver.
First, using my hacksaw, I hacked away all the colorful but excess characters; the ones I had thrown in for flavor and fill. I left only a protagonist, an antagonist, and a mediator.
Then with my cleaver, I chopped away all the excess character thought-internalization, leaving only that which was required for reader understanding.
I trimmed off all redundancies too.
Next came an extremely hard and delicate task. With tear filled eyes and using my sharp paring knife, I carefully trimmed and hacked away at my beloved and long labored over description. With bloodied fingers, I gently lay the extricated pieces in ever-growing piles.
When I was finished, I felt spent and not at all pleased with the results’ but I had completed the assignment. I had cut, slashed, and trimmed my thirty-two-hundred-word story down to fifteen hundred words. I had turned my juicy T-bone steak into a slim trim fillet Mignon.
I turned it in and, to my surprise, received a favorable but begrudging response. The story still needed some trimming and a little seasoning, maybe then I should have no trouble marketing it. For some reason, I wasn’t convinced. I got out my list of editors and sent it out.
Many rejections later, I received a reply that said they loved my story and wanted to publish it. Fillet Mignon began to taste a lot better.


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