Cutting the word count. Yup, the dreaded hunt for the unessential and redundant in a story. How does one get into the mind set of slashing words after reading the draft and thinking, there is no way this will work if I have to find a way to eliminate thousands of words.
Been there? I was there with a short story. It began at about 6,000 words. My goal was 3000 words. A very lofty goal, but, heck, I was ready. Flexing my fingers and securing the keyboard, I set to work.
This is how I managed to get it down to just under 5000 words.
I made every word count. I kept asking, does the reader need to know this? I opened with an action scene, trimming and deleting. It is now 550 words. I cut the first scene by 250 words, more or less. I wanted it to be quick and forboding.This is what resulted from the trim:
Mind, Body, Spirit
By Ann Chiappetta © 2017
“Wake her up.”
Something warmer than the frigid aluminum gunwale touched my face.
“Amy, get up, babe, its Cole, get up and open your eyes.”
Cole? Why did he sound like that? He sounded worried. I opened my eyes and met Ray’s bruised face, He pointed a pistol at me, his hand steady.
I clutched Cole’s hand. The gun had all my attention. The blueish gun metal glinted dully in the shafts of light breaking through grey November sunset. We were heading out of the harbor. I turned, getting my bearings and ignored the pain in my head. We were approaching an island just outside the basin. As we got closer I picked out an Arial tower. I knew then where we were going, Governor’s Island.
The events of the last two hours finally came back with consciousness and I retched. I felt the boat shift. The top of the old jetty could be seen, covered in icy slush and debris.
“Take the line and tie up,”
Cole secured the craft,
Get her out.” Ray ordered, steadying himself with the handle of the outboard motor, pointing the way with the gun. We splashed and slid our way up the submerged slab of concrete. The icy water soaked our legs up to the thigh. It was so cold, I stopped feeling like puking
Ray watched us, trying to keep his balance on the slick ramp after climbing out of the dinghy. He was still a few feet from the dry land, his hand on the line when the water surged up the ramp and knocked the boat into the back of his legs. He stumbled and fell to one knee, the icy water dragging him down. Cole sprang, yelling,
Cole knock the gun out of Ray’s hand before I turned and headed up the rocky shoreline. The gun skidded down the ramp under the dinghy and was lost. I started to run, but then I stopped, feeling dizzy and out of breath. I found something to rest on, closing my eyes.
Strong hands pulled me up, “Amy, babe, we’re almost safe, but to be really safe we have to climb.”
“Cole? Is that you?” He was pushing me from behind.
“We can rest up there. Let’s go.”
We started up the rusty ladder. Cole helped by moving my hands and feet as we made our way up. Once we reached the last third of the tower, the wind hit us so hard we grabbed at the iron rungs with renewed desperation. It was almost dark now and I started to cry from the pain in my head and the cold and wind ripping at us.
“You’re doing great, just a little farther then you’ll be safe,” said Cole kissing my head.
The tower platform was still so far away. Cole pressed closer, lips pressed to my ear so I could hear him above the gusting wind.
“I love you Amy. Don’t give up. We’ll find a way, but we have to get to the top.”
I shook my aching head and buried it in his damp shirt. “No, I can’t. I’m so tired.” I felt his body jerk, and then I felt the thump-thump below us on the ladder. Ray was coming