The 750 Word Challenge

750 word challenge - drawing by Trent P McDonaldNote – this is an old post.  I’ve updated the story list at the end through 2014, but have stopped.  For a complete list, see the page “The 750 Word Challenge“.

People who follow my blog may notice that I get a bit verbose, am often a little wordy, I go on for too long, I…  ooops, sorry.  Yes, my posts are often too long.  I understand that a good blog should be short and sweet, concise and to the point.  I understand and yet I still go on and on.  Of course it isn’t just my blog, I tend to get a bit wordy in all of my writing.  That’s one reason I like the 750 word challenge.

I can hear you say, “750 words is a little long for a blog.”  Correct, and I have too often exceeded it.   I’m not talking about blogs, though.  The idea of the 750 word challenge is to write a meaningful and interesting short story in 750 words or less.  Those who follow the Writer’s Digest Magazine’s forums know that I didn’t invent the idea.  There is a regular contest where forum members can submit a 750 word or less story based on a given theme or idea.

I like the 750 word challenge.  I haven’t participated in the Writer’s Digest version in a couple of years but I still occasionally try it on my own.  It’s a good way to practice self-editing and to discover exactly what is and isn’t needed in a story.

My last post, “Laura’s Eyes”, is an example.  I had an idea for a story.  It was pretty simple so I decided to shoot for the under-750 words mark.  I quickly cut out large chunks of the story.  For example, I had originally wanted to introduce Laura’s mom so we could see those eyes on 3 faces: the small child, Laura and her mother.  I left the child in for the embarrassment factor, but the mother wasn’t needed.  The final story is much leaner.

Besides editing the story down to its most basic components, word choice becomes a more important issue.   Finding exactly the right word is imperative when the number of words is so limited.  You need to convey the idea in as few words as possible, yet it still has to flow and have a groove.

Back to “Laura’s Eyes”, the introduction to Laura’s father, Mr. Saunders, was very clumsy.   I changed the wording five times.  It still doesn’t flow as well as it should, but it’s an improvement.  Looking back I understand that part of the flow problem was my insistence on saying Jim had only lived in town for a year.   One reason for this insistence was vestigial from the original longer story I had in mind.  The other reason was an explanation for why Jim had never met Laura.  There were many other places where I changed the original word for something that fit my specific meaning a little better.

The challenge exposes many weak spots.  In an effort to shorten things up I made the dialog in “Laura’s Eyes” a little choppy and unnatural.  It gives me a goal for my next 750 word challenge – make the dialog flow naturally yet stay within the limits.

If you have never tried a 750 word challenge you should.  You can go to the Writer’s Digest website and participate in one of theirs or make one up one your own.  This exercise really forces you take a closer look at your writing.  But remember, although it’s a learning experience you need to have fun with it.

Good luck!

—-

Note – the above was posted in December of 2013 after I put the first short story up on my blog.  I’ve posted quite a few since, including the ones in the list below which are all limited to 750 words or less.  They’re listed in the reverse order of when the were posted, newest at the top.  Enjoy!

(Most of the “Frank” stories are less than 750 words.  Only a few have been posted here)

(For stories with no restrictions, see my Fiction Page)

Stories Using 750 Words or Less:

Other Posts about challenges

Challenge Me!

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5 thoughts on “The 750 Word Challenge

  1. Pingback: 2015 Blog Review (The real One ; ) ) | Trent's World (the Blog)

  2. Pingback: Changing the Past | Trent's World Blog

    1. trentpmcd Post author

      I know I’m not the only one around here whose pen runneth over. Of course seeing the haikus on your page reminds me that meaning can be distilled down to pretty small units….

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      Reply

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