Thursday, May 10, 2007

WORD COUNT-GOING UNDER THE KNIFE

I am finished with the rough draft of Chance's story, which is the plotstorm we've gone through together. (For those of you joining my blog readership late, you can find the PLOTSTORM label to the right to view the Plotstorms for the third book in my Wings of Refuge Series).

As usual, I am 5,000-6,000 words over. Meaning, my publisher wants the books to end up between 55,000 and 60,000 words.

So major cutting is what I'm doing now. I thought I'd post how I do this in case any of you struggle with what and where to cut.

First off, I have critiquers going through the entire ms right now. They bring an outside perspective on the story. Any places they think drags, I cut large portions (several paragraphs at a time) from those sluggish areas. Areas where it feels like the flow stops, or the story bogs. I condense what I said in a paragraph down to a sentence, etc. That sort of thing.

I also get rid of unneccesary words such as, "So, And, But, Then," Etc. from the beginnings of my sentences. I also nix nearly every "just" and "that" I can because most of the time, it will tighten the writing, and sound better without it. There are other throw away words, but I'll get into that later.

I am to page 50 of a 300 page manuscript and have already cut 2100 of the necessary 6000 words. Cutting 6000 words seems daunting until you break it down to what you need to cut per page, or per chapter if you prefer to do it that way.

In a 300 word manuscript, to cut 6000 words, you need to cut 20 words per page. That's it. That averages to about one or two sentences per page. See? Sounds much more doable. And some pages I've cut 50 words, so if I only cut 10 on the next page, I'm still where I need to be within parameters.

I also go through and omit most "ly" adverbs, and strive for a stronger verb instead. I especially try to stay away from "was" with "ing" words, and exchange that for a strong "ed" verb. For example. He was staring at her. Change to: He stared at her, or better yet: He stared. "was" with "ing" tends to make writing passive. We must strive to make writing active.

Another way I bring my word count down is to reconstruct sentences. Tighten the writing and omit wordiness. I will post some examples here. The first sentence is the sentence as I typed it rough draft. The second sentence is the reworked sentence, with how many words I was able to cut from the sentence by recrafting it.

Examples:

1. "Bitsy, are you really going to go leave this house looking like that?" Sasha asked, looking at her outfit with disdain. (21 words)
2. "You really going out like that?" Sasha's scowling eyes swept her outfit. (Cut down to 12 words, and shown intead of told. Also cut the tag ("said") since I have a beat, tag is not necessary. Only use one or the other to denote speaker, not both.)

1. He turned around and went to go look for Bitsy. (10 words)
2. He whirled, intent to find Bitsy. (6 words-cut 4 total)

1.She had on combat boots that came all the way up to her thighs. (14 words)
2.She wore thigh-high combat boots. (down to 6 words, cut 8 words by reworking)

1. They reminded Bitsy of the thigh-high Gor-Tex wading boots that Sasha wore to delve into hip-deep water inside the caves that she explored to catch a glimpse of her beloved vampire bats. (35 words) EEK! (Sheesh! I know THAT needed cut. LOL! But remember, it's the ROUGH draft. LOL)
Sentence reworked: 2. Reminded Bitsy of Sasha's Gor-Tex wading boots. (8 words, cut 27 words!)


The reason I cut so much of that sentence is: Sasha is a secondary character, so I'm trying to bring my heroine front and center more, and not have so much emphasis on secondaries. When Sasha gets her own story, then I can paste (since I do cut and paste cuts into a separate document for future reference) those details into my scene index and character charts and incorporate it into Sasha's story, since it really doesn't apply to Bitsy's story. If Sasha's story were going to come next, I'd focus on her more heavily than another secondary. Since it isn't coming for awhile, I really don't need to plant these details in here. I have several more books (please, Lord?) to write before Sasha's, so I can plant a sentence or so in each one about her, so readers can start bonding with her, and hopefully request her story. That's how I'm hoping I'll know if readers are endeared to secondaries, is if I get requests for their story. I've heard many authors get reader letters, requesting that a particular secondary, or minor character get his/her own story.

Anyway, I'm going through EVERY sentence of my ms and cutting ALL words that are not crucial and serve a purpose in the story.

I may post more reworks later, but hopefully this'll help you once you go to edit your story.

Back to hacking,

Squirrel

--
Cheryl Wyatt Gal. 2:20 Pouring my vial of words over Him.

www.CherylWyatt.com www.Scrollsquirrel.blogspot.com

A SOLDIER'S PROMISE~ Steeple Hill Love Inspired~ Jan. 2008
A SOLDIER'S FAMILY~ Steeple Hill Love Inspired~ Mar. 2008

http://www.Steeplehill.com www.Loveinspiredauthors.com

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

So is being a writer harder than being a nurse. With all the words you have to take out wouldn't it be easy to work on a patient? Kidding of course.
God Bless.
Jane Squires - jrs362@hotmail.com

Patricia W. said...

Thanks for sharing your cutting process. Easy to see the end result will be a tighter read, based on a few simple changes.

Only 4,000 words to go. Happy cutting!

Tracy Ruckman said...

Howdy, Cheryl!

Tag - You're It! List 8 random things about yourself on your blog, then tag 8 more people.

You can read my 8 random things on my ShoutLife blog and see how you were tagged.

Have fun - just don't shoot me!

Christa said...

So glad you figured out the labels!

Hope Chastain said...

This blog post reminded me of the excellent advice you gave me when I was chopping 60,000 words out of mine! LOL Thanks again for all the help!