Are your words written in stone? Each one precious and agonized over? Your little darlings? What would it take for you to cut five thousand of them out of your manuscript? Ten thousand? Thirty thousand?
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No way, you say. Well, what if there was a good chance of getting it published in the smaller version? Would that entice you?
That's exactly what happened with my first book. After I cut those 30,000 words, I received a contract offer for it...and as God would have it, I also received an offer for the bigger version.
I learned so much cutting those words, though, and a lot of the shorter version ended up in the longer version because the writing was so much tighter...and better!
I've been asked how I cut those 30,000 words, and I've always replied it was a lot like going on a diet. Very. Painful.
First, I cut a Point of View. I didn't cut the character, I just took out everything that was in his POV. That gave me 15,000 words right off the bat.
Of course, I added a few of those words back getting the information into the story that this character had revealed. But I netted at least 13,000 words.
Once I had that cleaned up, I went sentence by sentence, seeing if the sentence could be rewritten tighter, or taken out all together. I discovered I sometimes explained things more than once, often more than twice. You guessed--SNIP.
I also looked at passive wording and weak verbs. Both use more words. When I made the sentence stronger, often by using a stronger verb, I gained words. Here's an example:
She looked at him from the top of his head to his feet, barely noticing that he had on jeans and a plaid shirt over those broad shoulders...became: Her gaze flicked over him, barely registering the broad shoulders, plaid shirt, and jeans = 28 vs 14. I did that over and over and the words mounted up.
Here's an example from this blog: The first thing I did was to... Ended up: First, I cut... (See how it works.)
I also did a search for weasel words and -ly adverbs to see if they were needed. Ninety-nine percent of them were not. Here are a few weasel words I seem to love: seem, just, that, suddenly, ever, some, almost, but, simply...there are more, I'm sure.
And that's how I cut 30,000 words. And remember, if you cut ten words per page and your page count is 400 pages, that's 4,000 words right there.
Leave a comment and tell me your favorite weasel words. Oh, and I'd like to know how many of you would be willing to kill your little darlings...