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I am a new writer. My work is focused on real people. I ask a series of questions and go from there. Its all about their personal journeys with health. I like to capture the feeling of what people have gone through, and put it into words. I have no problem telling a great story. The problem I'm running into is word criteria. I have a limited 750-word count. I always go way over (3,000), then I just can't seem to trim and still be proud of what I have written. How do I achieve both?

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    Could you give us a little more detail? What are you writing - a journalistic article? Something for a blog? Who imposes the word-count limit? (Not my downvote, but I would guess you are getting downvoted for insufficient crucial detail. Don't worry about the downvotes too much - downvotes can be taken back if you edit your post, and an upvote on a good question is worth more than a downvote anyway.) You might find it helpful to take a look at our How to Ask page, it should help you focus your question better. – Galastel Mar 15 at 0:39
  • This might help: writing.stackexchange.com/a/707/23253 – wetcircuit Mar 15 at 2:17
  • I changed the tags around but if you or others feel the old ones, or different ones, are better, re-edit the post. – Cyn Mar 15 at 14:38
  • Welcome. You can do this by seeing each phrase as a lump of coal to distill down into a diamond. Each word in your final piece needs to carry it's weight. View the words as each having that requirement, and you will shift how you see the counts. ( – DPT Mar 15 at 15:11
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Sometimes editing to fit a requirement makes you a stronger writer. And sometimes the onerousness of the requirement means you're in the wrong genre.

If you said you have a 750 word limit and sometimes you push 1000 words, then we could give you all sorts of advice about how to trim things to make it work. But 3000 to 750? That's not trimming. That's changing your format.

My suggestion: Find places that accept 3000 (or maybe 2500) word pieces.

If that's not possible, then break your stories into parts.

If you can't do that, then you will have to focus each story on something far more narrow than you're doing now. For example, instead of documenting someone's journey with diabetes, focus on their diagnosis, or on their dietary changes.

You can still be proud of more narrowly focused articles. There is an art to capturing the feel with only a piece of the story to work with. Which approach you take depends on what options are available to you and the details of who you are writing for (your publisher and your audience).

Don't think of it as trimming (which simply isn't possible when you're cutting 3/4 of what you've written). Try not to simplify: you just can't document a large journey in 750 words. Instead, focus. Narrow the scope and then fill it out from there.

  • Trying to trim from 3000 words to 750 words feels like trying to reduce a jpeg file size further by zipping it. You can squeeze a few percent out that way, but jpeg is already a compressed file format, so zipping won't do much. To get that much of a decrease in size, you would need to either drastically decrease the quality of the image, or you would need to crop it. – ahiijny Mar 15 at 16:15
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The problem is you are asking us how you can erase 75% of your writing.

We can't help you. If it was 25%? Sure. 50%? Maybe. 75% isn't possible if you still want it to be the same thing.

In this case, I recommend starting from scratch and making an outline that you follow to a Tee. Pick one event in that person's life and write about it. Do not use adjectives or adverbs unless mandatory for accuracy. Do not be afraid of 3-4 word sentences. Try to avoid going over 7 words in a sentence when possible. Always try to find a way to use contractions when possible. (i.e "Michael is going to the store" -> "Michael's going to the store.") If you can shorten your word choice further, do so. (i.e. "Michael's going shopping.") Focus on making your word usage intentional and as direct as possible. Any elaboration and purple prose can then be sprinkled into your writing after you have finished the draft and seen how many words you still have available. Don't be afraid to be a miser with the words you use. Make a plan and stick to it and you should be fine.

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Don't cut down, restart from scratch and build up. You've already done the major work.

So, write a summary for your 3000 word document.

Summarize the 3 most important points that you want someone to get out of it (or even the 1 most important point).

Start with a sentence. Then write a paragraph. Then flesh it out more. Repeat that last step as often as necessary to get the word count you want; each time adding more detail.

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Honestly, some solid advice that applies to everyone is just cut down on any unnecessary adjectives/adverbs if it's a work of fiction. If it's an non-fiction piece, try taking out certain phrases and see if you can replace them with one word that gives off the same basic definition.

  • I don't think that cutting down on adjectives will be enough to get to just one fourth of the current word count as the OP is trying to get from 3.000 down to 750. Have you used this approach successfully yourself to verify that it can reduce the size of your work by 75%? – Secespitus Mar 15 at 12:03
  • when I first answered this question, there was no status on how much needed to be reduced in the summary so I didn't know how much was being worked with. – Paravalious Mar 17 at 4:16
  • You can look at the revision history to see that the content of the question hasn't changed. – Secespitus Mar 17 at 9:30
  • Then I must have missed it, sorry – Paravalious Mar 18 at 13:58

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