This past week, as a writing and marketing exercise, I submitted excerpts from my novel, In Franklin's House, to five print publications. After I had selected a section from the book (approximately 3,000 words) that with minor modifications would stand alone as a short story, I checked word length requirements at the targeted magazines.
At one publication the editor wanted 1,000 words maximum, while other editors accepted 5,000 words. Beginning with the lesser figure as a goal, I first eliminated any non-essential paragraphs from the text; next deleted sentences, but mostly editing came down to slicing phrases and words that didn't advance the material. This became quite a quest: to test each word; to see if each could serve dual purposes.
After this minimalist approach--and, yes, I made the 1,000 count--I questioned if my longer version had padding; then stripped 500 words from it.
Naturally I hope that one or more of these submissions is accepted. However, I'm grateful for the revision lesson. It affirmed that although novel and short story writing don't always equate, the judicious examination of words benefits any writer.