I’ve been mentally MIA for the last eight days. Why? I’ve been up to my eyeballs in a fairly significant revision of my manuscript, Where Poppies Bloom. Without getting into all the details, someone recently advised that I cut back the length of my manuscript (originally around 86K), which would, obviously, pick up the pace. Fifty-ish pages, she recommended. That’s somewhere around 11K words, incase you’re counting.
I’ll admit that it sounded impossible at first. I didn’t think Poppies was dragging. I didn’t think it was wordy or over-written. And my scenes! All the beautiful scenes I’d spent hours planning and writing and editing… some of them were going to have to go. Heartbreaking, I tell you! But, the more I considered it, the more I started to look at this revision opportunity as an interesting sort of challenge.
So, I copied and pasted the entire 328 page story into a new document and went to work. I figured if I could cut at average of ten useless words per page, I’d be a third of the way to my goal even before chopping full scenes. In an effort to keep myself from becoming completely overwhelmed, I focused on that and dove in.
As I read (and cut), read (and cut), I became very, very critical. Unnecessary dialogue tags were first to go. Next, too-detailed descriptions, then over-expressed emotions. I deleted instances of telling when I’d already shown (I do that sometimes… apparently I worry about being thorough). Finally, I trimmed the beginnings and endings of character conversations in an effort to get to the meat of what was really being said.
When that was all said and done, I took a long, hard look at my scene outline. I figured out which scenes could be deleted entirely (honestly, there weren’t many), which scenes could be combined to streamline the story, and which scenes could become a quick paragraph of exposition. Then I went back to work.
When it was all said and done, I’d trimmed just over 11K words (49 pages) from Where Poppies Bloom. I’m currently three-quarters of the way into a final read through, just to make sure everything still flows, and I have to be honest: I’ve never loved this story as much as I do today. While it was in great shape before, it’s SO clean now. It moves quickly and the suspense is that much greater. I truly believe the revision I once thought was impossible might be the greatest thing to happen to this story, and I’m so glad I took on the challenge.
Care to share your most helpful hints for trimming word count?