Last year, I wrote a short story that was the pandemic version of a fairy tale, with theme's of women's work and community. I sent it out to a few markets, but it got rejected each time. I decided to hold on to this story until later this year, when I could submit to a special fairy-tale themed magazine issue. However, I was recently invited to submit to a hope-themes anthology that's currently in the middle of its submission period. I thought this story was a potential fit until I realized the word count limit for anthology submissions is only 3,000 words. My original story is 4,500 words, so it would need a lot of trimming to make it fit. I also needed to change the tone of the story to better fit the theme.
I started by removing the first two scenes, which show the protagonist interacting with her husband. This put the story opening right at the critical moment of change. I also removed nearly a thousand words with this single edit, which left me with about five hundred to go. I tightened up some phrasings, removed details that no longer seemed necessary, and took out an incident that was told rather than shown. I actually managed to get the story down to about 2,100 words. Now I needed to work on the tone and the hope theme. To do this, I'm refocusing the story on the relationship between the protagonist and a friend instead of the woman and her husband. I've added more interactions between the friends,though I wasn't satisfied with the direction I'd originally planned for them and did something else. The deadline is next Monday, so I have to finish it before then.
Whether or not this new story gets accepted to the hope anthology or I submit the original one to the fairy tale issue, I think it's interesting how a writer can take the same premise-even some of the same words--and tell different tales. It might be interesting to publish them side-by-side in a collection someday.
Have you ever had to cut a story drastically down? Did you feel it made a significant difference to the story? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.