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I'm mainly interested in writing for kids -although, this issue probably relates across the board.

I'm currently writing to submit to a children's magazine-type publication that requires me to stick within a word limit. I set out to try to stick within the limit but usually end up going considerably over. I need to develop skills here.

Do you think it is a matter of keeping plot simple, point of view, telling rather than showing so much (although the opposite is usually recommended). Thanks if you could share any thoughts on this.  Regards, Steve.

Hello Steve:

I believe it is all those things. Ask yourself these questions:

 1. What age/grade is this magazine aimed at?

 2. What kind of stories do children this age/grade like to read (or have read to them)?

 3. Is there a vocabulary list available for this age group? If so, where can I find it? On the Net?

 4. How complex should a story be for this age group?

 5. What do I know, and what can I learn about cutting a story?

Consider yourself blessed to have this problem - it's a lot harder to add!

Here's a procedure that might help you. Write your story and do a word count. Write the number of words at the top. Then start cutting. Examine each paragraph, each line of dialogue, each sentence, each word, to see if the same can be removed without harming the story. Make each word carry its weight. When you have removed every word that doesn't carry its weight do another word count. If it isn't right, do the same thing over again. You may have to delete whole incidents to make your quota.

Of course you will read widely in children's literature and especially the magazine you want to write for - even subscribe to it.

I hope this helps. If it does, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my high score over 450+ questions.

And good luck with your writing!  

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Susan Rand


I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.


I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

BA degree in Written Communication

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