Writing a Story in 1500 Words

Could I write a love story in 1500 words? My chapter of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) is going to publish an anthology of short stories as a fund raiser and the Los Angeles Romance Authors (LARA) President challenged us all to put on our writing hats and submit something.

Piece of cake, I thought, since I write 500 word blog posts week in and week out, here on my own page, at work, and as a guest on other blogs such as Here Be Magic and Paranormal Romantics. How hard could it be to write a nice little story that was three times as long as a blog? I noodled around  ideas on my two hour commute (one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening unless there’s a sigalert on the LA freeways!), which is where I do a lot of plotting as I drive.

I came up with a plot set in my alternate Ancient Egypt, came home from work that evening and started writing. The words just flowed; I loved my characters – a widowed healer, her young son and the heir to the great estate on which they all lived. Oh and since the distinguishing characteristic of my Egypt is the daily involvement of the gods and goddesses, there’s definitely a hint of the paranormal. I was really getting into the narrative, had just reached the critical plot point that was going to set more events in motion…and, glancing at the word counter, realized I was already at 1745 words. My people were just getting to the good stuff, I hadn’t even brought the designated goddess into play yet – there was SO much more to happen before the Happily Ever After (HEA)!

Okayyyyy, back to square one. The work wasn’t wasted – nothing is EVER wasted for an author! I’ll definitely be back in the middle of this story fairly soon. I’m a pantser, which means I kinda dive into the writing and the plot unfolds for me as I get to know my characters better and they seize control of the action, so I can’t tell you if the tale of the widow, her son and the heir to the estate is going to be a novella or a novel, LOL!

One day closer to the deadline. Time for a new plot idea. OK, got it. Started writing. Managed to tell this new little story in 1849 words. And it was complete in itself, no further developments I had to tell. HEA in place. (Of course, me being me, I could write a LOT of additional adventures for my couple but that’s for later.) Now to chop out 349 words plus maybe a couple more to be on the safe side of 1500. Wow, all those problems with too much information dump, excess backstory, lazy adverbs – those all go away when you’re limited to 1500 words!  Every word has to count and advance the story.

I was happy with the end result. We have some very strong writers in our RWA chapter so I have no idea if my story “Lady of Dreams” will make the cut and be in the anthology or not but it was a fun exercise and I learned a great deal, plus I came out of it with that whole other story to work on and make as long as I please.

I’ll keep you posted!

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