Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Slash and Burn

Whenever I'm working on a story, I keep a file of cut stuff. Sometimes I'll go back and pull a paragraph or two, but usually the file is more of a reminder of the excess that my story doesn't need.

Yesterday as I cut yet another section from my book, I happened to look down at the word count: 13,251. I've cut thirteen thousand words from a novel that is only 30K! Wow. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing! A lot of the story lines in the cut stuff are in the final version. They're just written differently. Better I hope! But still...

How many words do you cut from a novel before it's ready to face the world?

28 comments:

Laura Pauling said...

It depends. I cut 6,000 words recently from what I thought was a finished manuscript. I cut a lot. I like the idea of keeping track. :)

KarenG said...

Tons! Thousands! And then I've got to add them back in. Take out the bad, put in the good. Take out the good, put in the better. So it goes from bad to okay, to good, to better to best. That's how I revise. And yes, it takes me forever.

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

Gosh, I guess I'd cut at least a third, but it usually gets rewritten into the story using another technique or tactic. :) 13,000 out od 30,000? wow, that's a lot!

Jamie Grey said...

That's such a great idea! I'm going to track once I start cutting. I have a feeling I'm going to probably end up cutting half of my 60k WIP. But, I'll be adding that back in, which is a whole 'nother story!

Kay said...

I slash, cut, trim, excise ... but hopefully don't burn major story elements. Have a handy file for each manuscript for dead stuff. Sometimes, the stuff rises again.

Mother Hen said...

Very good idea to store the cut stuff somewhere. I write free hand first but then type out and then edit on the laptop but didn't think to save slashed parts as the basic idea is hand written already. I think I need to change formats. Thanks for the idea. Happy cutting.

Piedmont Writer said...

I like keeping the cut stuff too. Just in case I want to use it somewhere else, if not in that story, just change a name or two and use it in another.

I 30K off the first revision, another 6k off the second, and then another thousand on the final. I ended up with 95,138.

Carolyn V. said...

Okay, that is just a loaded question. =) I usually end up with a whole book of cut words. It's sad. =)

Lori W. said...

No less than half. Ever. Well, actually, it took me awhile to learn that trick, or rather that reality that revision means I'll rewrite at least 50% of the book. It's making it very difficult to figure out a daily word count! For instance, I'm sure I just wrote 1K, but I cut so much, I'm down 2K!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I think I cut between 1/3 and 1/2 by the time I'm done - and add new ones, of course. :-)

Suzanne Casamento said...

WOW! That's a big cut file.

I have no idea how much I cut before a manuscript is ready. Now I'm totally curious! I'm going to keep track.

Beth Kephart said...

Baby, I am there with you. My scissors are razor sharp.

Rena said...

Well, none of my so-called novels seem ready to face the world, so it's hard to say. I tend to edit as I write more, so I haven't cut any large chunks out yet. Hmm, maybe that's my problem ...

I like how you keep a file of stuff though. I usually keep another doc open with notes or an outline or something.

Solvang Sherrie said...

Laura: I thought this one was finished, too! Maybe they're never done...

Karen: Yes, from good, to better to best. I like that. Well, no, I don't like doing it. It's HARD! But yeah, that's what I do too :D

Jessica: Yes, a lot of it gets rewritten into the story so I don't know how much sense the cut parts would make!

Jamie: What's interesting to see is how much the story changes from the cut file to the final file. There are some sentences that I've written and rewritten way too many times :P

Kay: Yes, some of the stuff does rise again. And then I cut it again!

Mother Hen: I do write out some parts by hand and I usually save all that too. I'm a bit of a pack rat I suppose :)

Piedmont: There are scenes that I love that had to be cut, but for me, they are so specific to these characters, I don't know that I could use them somewhere else.

Carolyn: If only those cut words made sense as a whole other book! Loaded question? Yeah. Big time :)

Lori: Wow, 1K forward and 2K back? Ouch. I'm nearing that 50% mark.

Shannon: So you're another fifty percerter, huh? I'm glad it's not just me. I was kind of freaked that it was almost half!

Suzanne: It's a shocking amount of writing, isn't it?!

Beth: Good to know! If it works for you then I must be doing something right :D

Solvang Sherrie said...

Rena: I edit as I write, too. So my cut file stays open with the idea/outline file and the actual final file. And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my "filing" system!

Lydia Kang said...

I haven't counted actually! But I did cut about 35,000 once in one sitting--I ditched the first 13 chapters because it was all backstory.

T. Anne said...

WOW! 13k? I aspire to be you. I'm a delete button wimp!

Jackee said...

That's a lot of orphans!

My first novel had a lot of fat trimmed from it. I wish I'd kept better track but it was in the 50,000 range. Now I tend to write skeletons then add fat, so they aren't as huge of contestants on WIP Biggest Loser.

And I keep them in another doc file too! Then I don't feel like they're as you know... as lost. They're just safely laid to pasture. :o)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Wow, that's a lot! I've never kept track. Just toss it out and move on, but that's interesting to contemplate.

Paige said...

I edit heavily as I go and only venture to the next section of my book when I'm happy with what came before. This has good and bad points! I don't throw much away, though. I rename the file every week and it's common for me to go back into an old version and reuse things I initially threw away. Great question!

PJ Hoover said...

I love cutting huge hunks of words, especially from a fat manuscript. I cut The Emerald Tablet from 113K to 65K!

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Holy crap that's a lot of cutting! Wow! Yeah, Cinders has gotten up to 36k and I'm kind of dying.

Niki said...

Did your story The Secret of Undine get published? I really enjoyed the first chapter.

Solvang Sherrie said...

Lydia: You take the prize. 35K in one sitting? That's impressive!!

T.Anne: I call one of my crit partners the Queen of Revisions because she has no fear of the delete button!

Jackee: This is the most I've ever trimmed :)

Tricia: I'm too much of a pack rack to completely let it go...

Paige: I edit as I go as well, especially the first few chapters. I can't move on until I have a really good feel for the beginning.

PJ: I do NOT love cutting. But that's impressive to go from 113K to 65K!

Michelle: I'd say a good deal of it IS crap :)

Niki: Undine has not been published yet. I'm glad you liked it though. Maybe one day...

Stina Lindenblatt said...

My YA novel has gone on a yo-yo diet. I managed to cut it down from 81,000 words to 74,000, but then I had to do some other rewrites and develop the descriptions some more. It ballooned back up to 80,000 words!

I even cut out three scenes. ;)

Mohamed Mughal said...

Keep the material that you cut. It could gestate into short stories or another novel.

Solvang Sherrie said...

Stina: Funny how that happens! You cut, you add, you trim, it grows. But hopefully it gets tighter (and better!) with each change.

Mohamed: I keep everything. I'm a total pack rat :)

mi said...

i do exactly the same thing - i never fully delete anything i've written, but i know how necessary it is sometimes to cleanse your manuscript of things that just aren't working.

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