I’m working on a longer story for the bi-monthly contest over at Science Fiction and Fantasy World. These offer a little more breathing room than the flash fiction contest, with the limit being 5,000 words instead of 1,000. But while that seems like a lot, it can still sneak up on you rather quickly. I was happily typing away at my story, doing some nifty on-the-fly world building, crafting some interesting descriptions, when I realized I was already halfway to 3,000 words and hadn’t really gotten to the key incident in my story, the one that was kind of the entire point. They say work expands to fill the time given; well, so do words when you have a limit.
So I had to cut. The problem was, I really liked some of the things I’d written. A lot. They were the kind of sentences where, after writing them, you sit back and think you might actually know what you’re doing. But they were in the way. They didn’t serve the large purpose, and in fact were getting in the way of it. So they had to go. I snipped a big chunk in the middle, then fixed either end so it all made sense, and got my character where I needed him in a page and a half as opposed to three. All well and good.
Except I can feel those deleted words haunting me. They’re off in my mind tingling like a limb that’s fallen asleep, reminding that they were once part of the story, and that I used to like them enough to have them around. The new words I type flow a little guiltily, knowing that they’re treading on ground these excised words used to lay claim to, aware that they’re brusquely getting to their point with none of the same eloquence or panache. Okay, maybe I’m overselling the quality of what was cut just a little, but dammit, I pounded the keyboard over those things! They deserved better!
Fortunately, I saved the old version of the story with the extras intact. Maybe that’s cheating, but hey, I might be able to salvage them for something else down the road. Maybe for an extended version of what I’m working on now, maybe for something else entirely, like spare parts in a workshop. Just don’t let them hear me say that. They’ve been through enough already.