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QUESTION: What are your tips for shortening a short story?
Sometimes, a short story that’s actually short can pack just as much meaning and experience into the text as a long story that sprawls. When you’ve got your ear to the ground and are listening for a spark of inspiration, consider that how you envision your short stories to begin can impact how they’ll turn out. The moment can be mundane (a man picks up his daughter whom he sees every other weekend) to the exceptional (a woman sits in the waiting room of the ER). A short story doesn’t have to “do” much; it can just “be.” A short story is not necessarily like a novel or a memoir, which often has a particular kind of momentum that builds from one scene to the next. Sometimes it’s possible to find a shorter story within a long one.
In a best-case scenario, your short short story’s life begins before you start writing it. To make the most of a short short story, focus in on a character or a moment very tightly. Sometimes, very small moments can have huge, unthinkably consequential meanings.
The dignity of movement of an ice-berg [sic] is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. Maybe one-eighth sounds extreme, but even if you have a different fraction, the rule stands: show, don’t tell, and if you’re showing, show it in a shorter way. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. But Orwell gives you a little bit of leeway: if something sounds “outright barbarous” (in simpler terms more in line with his own rules: brutal, uncivilized, or bad), you might just have permission to break these rules.
Whether you’re writing fiction, nonfiction, or something that defies definition, it’s a good rule of thumb. Which leads us to our final guideline: Use your own best judgment These rules will help you maintain clean, clear prose that argues, convinces, or portrays efficiently and powerfully.
Ask one of your recommenders to mention your long-standing interest in public policy, “as evidenced by [his/her] experience interning for a lawyer and gaining skills in…” This one may be trickiest of all, which potentially makes it the best item to delegate.
It’s good practice to address any glaring blemishes on your application – things happen, people are human, and reviewers understand that.
Get out the pruning shears: a big part of good writing is good editing. Here’s a tip: Want to make sure your writing always looks great?
And a surefire way to give your writing a confidence boost is to eliminate words that weigh down your writing and make you sound uncertain. Like weasels, they’re not necessarily bad on their own. But weasels are known for escaping situations (ever heard of someone “weaseling out” of something? Grammarly can save you from misspellings, grammatical and punctuation mistakes, and other writing issues on all your favorite websites. Weasel words are qualifiers that make you sound unsure of yourself, like you’re trying to create wiggle room.
But it can be hard to work this kind of explanation into an essay with a thesis of “I’m the best, pick me!
” Asking one of your mentors to address your “meh” GRE score in their letter eliminates the need for you to do it, but also gives room for someone who knows you (and whose professional opinion of you is part of the application) to explain why they don’t think it’s a reflection of your abilities.