Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Extreme Makeover - Manuscript Edition

My current work-in-progress is 125,000 words long. It's a sci-fi epic, and they tend to be pretty huge. Goes with the territory.

Unfortunately it's not economical to print a novel that long by an author new to the genre, so I've been told to trim it down to below 90,000 words.


A challenge, you'd think. I am going through cutting out every single word which doesn't contribute to the story. Every sentence which isn't advancing the plot is history. Every phrase which doesn't enhance the narrative, deleted. It's turning my turgid work into a fast-paced, pithy and tight story which I am loving more with each cut.

Here's an example. In this scene, Emon walks into the cafeteria to find a table loaded with food for him. Among the delicious fare he describes is "a huge omelette filled with what looked like some type of vegetable salsa". At least, it was in the epic version. In the abridged version it is "a huge omelette filled with vegetable salsa." Six superfluous words slashed from one phrase. But really, is it vegetable salsa or isn't it? Does it matter to the plot whether he's not 100% certain what the omelette is filled with?

I waffle, I have realised. There are a lot of unnecessary words in my books. I might write all my books this way in future - ramble pointlessly in the first draft, and then mercilessly slash through my manuscript chipping off all the bits that don't make it look like something beautiful.

Editing is fun!


Stephanie Black said...

It really is amazing how much you can cut without changing the plot at all, just by clipping out unnecessary or repetitive words!

Cheri J. Crane said...

Very true. =) I call it streamlining. "Tightening" the manuscript makes for a better book.