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Dear Ms Herrin,

I write because I am puzzled about how a short story can best be written to be both captivating and within the 1000 word limit. My introductions tend to eat up too much of my piece and this leads to a flat climax (what an oxymoron) and a dull ending. How long should intros generally be? and how much of the story should be leading up to the climax?

Dear Sandra,

A 1,000 word limit doesn't give you much, does it? In this case, you'd have to dive right in, with the first paragraph setting up the sense of place, the tense, and your characterization. Two paragraphs will suffice.

Use dialogue sparingly throughout, but when you use it, choose very dynamic, short sentences.

Also, set up the first two paragraphs with the central theme or a sense of suspense, for example, then pick it up again for the last two paragraphs -- you'll want to create a kind of "circle," in which the reader will realize that the introduction relates to the ending/climax, etc., and may even refer to the beginning to find "clues" to determine how you arrived at the ending.

Just keep the writing tight and to the point, and use adjectives, but sparingly; you just won't have the space.

I hope this helps --

All Best,
Catherine Van Herrin

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Catherine Van Herrin


I am an American-born, native English speaker with a BA in English and more than 26 years of professional editing, writing, and proofreading experience. I have edited several books and book-length manuscripts. References and titles available upon request.

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