I have a love/hate relationship with word count. I want the story to take all the time it needs to unfold, on the other hand…I am intensely attracted and insanely infuriated by the challenge of the limitation. I think I could tell any story in 2000 words but in 1500 or even 1200? That is where your writing rubber hits the narrative road. My current project ended at over 2700 words and needs to get down to 1500 and still deliver its emotional payload. I edit and edit with the deadline approaching vacillating between a fury of frustration with myself to keep all the threads of the story present and in order and spiritual euphoria when what I am wanting in the story comes to me. A short short story requirement forces the aesthetic of poetry on the form of prose.
I have read enough formulas for writing to have utter conviction that there is no formula for writing outside of writing. A deaf adherence to a myriad of writing tips and hints can end up being poison in the system of your own creativity.
With that caveat established, I have found that when I lose my way in a narrative it often helps me to write the ending. I start writing a short story with a 1500 word limit only to be 2800 words in with nary a cohesive end in sight. At that point, I ask myself, where do I want this to go? What do I want to see happen? And then I write it down. I may even eventually change the ending, but I have found it helps me to plot a course when I can head toward a flag I’ve already staked.