Word Count & Cutting Words

Over the last ten days I’ve cut a whopping 9,500 words from my manuscript. My goal is/was to cut 20k from it…okay let me back up. My brain is sludge right now. I’ve been editing all the long, long weekend and not getting a lot of sleep.

When I originally completed the manuscript I’m working on, it was around 80k words. It was the first novel I ever wrote and I rushed through it without bothering to world build because I desperately NEEDED to write the story. I went back and edited it one time, adding the names of locations and setting descriptions. I also polished it, obviously. That edit got me up to 100,000 words. I mean, I was literally at 100,001  words. It was weird.

Then I put the story away and wrote four other novels. Then I decided I needed to stop being ridiculous and try to publish. So I pulled the story back out for an edit. WOW. There were definitely some terrible bits. It was really easy to spot the paragraphs that had been my first. I really wish I had copied them to a separate document so that I could share them and forever make fun of myself.

It turned out that the quick edit I planned to do this summer was really a two month long revision project. When I finished, I planned to read it through one time and then send it out to beta readers. Then I noticed that I had accidentally added another 20,000 words!

I got up to 120,013. I had written new scenes and chapters and completely revised other chapters but I didn’t think what I had done was worth that many extra words. I decided that I wanted to trim it back down to 100k. Mainly because it is a fantasy novel, and like all fantasy novels, it starts out not so exciting (imo) before the adventure really kicks off. I hate when stories do that. I don’t want 1/2 of my book to be the pre-adventure and then rush through the adventure in the second half!

I think in the first few days of cutting (all from the beginning chapters) I dropped 5,000 words or so. They slid off easily. Dropping from 115k down to my current 110,429 was much slower. I’m halfway through my read-through now. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to shave off at least 5,000 more words over the last half of the book but I’m not so concerned about getting back to 100k now. I’m in the thick of the story and I’d like focus on cutting to keep it exciting (and not repetitive) rather than cutting simply for the sake of it.

I’m trying to pat myself on the back for getting so much done in only ten days but I am EXHAUSTED. I really want to sleep more and read some books (that aren’t my own) and maybe bake some cookies. Also sleep. I said that, but really. Sleep.

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7 thoughts on “Word Count & Cutting Words

  1. Great job with the cutting so much!

    Do you follow your instincts when cutting parts or are there specific things you look out for?

    I’m currently cutting a manuscript from 10 years ago from 140,000 words to at least half. It’s interesting all the things that seemed so essential then which I’ve mercilessly removed now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I know what you mean! I have separate documents where I copy the deleted chunks so that when I over-cut (which I’ve done!) I can find and edit it back in. Sometimes it’s easy to think something isn’t essential and then a few chapters later realize that it was.

      The majority of my current cuts are coming from wordiness, repetitiveness, and useless information. I’ve been taking out a lot of passive voice too which always helps to cut a few words.
      Your post mentioning info dumps hit me hard too. I realized that I was struggling with two sections bc they were huge info dumps! I might have to go back and change them later. When I got to a minor info dump yesterday, I cut it entirely and added the info in a conversation, successfully cutting the word count down to 1/4 of what it was. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s a great idea with copying the deleted chunks. I really need to be more organised! It’s definitely a lot easier to cut stuff and be ruthless after some time has passed. But like you I tend to over-cut and lose some of the richness.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah that’s exactly what I was worried about. Plus, it’s kind of fun to see how many words you’ve cut. My manuscript is currently 109k and I’ve cut or replaced over 42,ooo words from it over the last year 😂

        Liked by 1 person

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