Doing that thing where I engage in a ludicrous amount of work in order to cut 500 words off a novel

download (1)Well, I’m working on revising my other young adult novel: Enter Title Here. For all the novel first drafts I’ve done, this is only the second time I’ve taken a novel through the revision process and come close to producing a final draft. However, when I was revising This Beautiful Fever, I did develop something of a system for the final stages of revision. And I am now in the penultimate part of it.

I am going through the novel, sentence by sentence, and systematically cutting and shortening everything. Now, I won’t say that brevity is the essence of good writing: I think that good writers often know when they should use extra words. But I’m not the most amazing prose stylist in the world, and brevity is at least something that I can reliably do. At times, this part of the process is a bit of a pain, but it can actually be a very immersive experience sometimes. It’s fun to play around with sentences. And for some reason, the second part of the process–after I’ve gone through and rewritten the chapter–is always to go through it again and figure out which sentences and paragraphs can go. I don’t know why I can’t do the latter first, but somehow the process of going through it really makes me see the whole thing in a new light.

It’s not particularly fast. In an hour of this, I can usually go through about 2500-3000 words of draft and cut 500 words from them. If carried through the entire novel, I should be able to cut about 15-18% of it, ending up with a draft that’s around 61,000 words long.

Sometimes I get a bit angsty over cutting little bits and pieces, but my solution is always to just cut them anyway and see if I miss them. Usually, I don’t.

Actually, this draft has been a marvel of excision. The first draft of 93,000 words long. The current draft is 67,000 words long. I’ve cut 26,000 words, and I don’t think anything is really missing. I’m honestly not sure what I cut. It was mostly just wheels spinning, I guess.

I think I’ve cut most of the easy stuff already, though. The cutting went in two phases. First I cut 10,000 words on this one day. Then (six months later), I cut 16,000 words in three consecutive days (9k the first day, 5k the second, and 2k on the third). Still, it feels good.

2 thoughts on “Doing that thing where I engage in a ludicrous amount of work in order to cut 500 words off a novel

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      There was no rush, since the novel wasn’t going to be submitted to editors until 2014 at the earliest, and there were other things that could come to fruition on a shorter timeframe.

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