I’m now engaged in what I think will be the last substantive set of revisions for We Are Totally Normal (might as well start mentioning the name here so you all remember it when the thing comes out in a year or so). As part of my final process for books, I like to go through line by line and make whatever cuts need to be made on a sentence level. For instance, that last phrase would be rewritten (“and make cuts on a sentence level”). The level of condensation you can achieve is pretty impressive. In the past, I’ve reduced a book’s length by as much as 15% by doing this (and cutting the occasional errant paragraph that doesn’t belong).
Normally I enjoy this work. It’s problem-solving; there’s a thrill in finding a better solution for saying what you’re trying to say. But this time I’m finding it taxing.
For some reason, I’m cutting less (only about 5% of the sections I go through), and it’s occupying less of my brain. I hope this is because I’m writing cleaner drafts, so there’s less to do later, but it’s hard to tell.
In any case, this is probably the most unnecessary part of my work. Lots of inefficient phrasing can be dismissed as “part of the voice.” And over-long books succeed all the time. I actually think over-long writing is easier to read, because you don’t need to read every line. It’s shocking how in many books you could easily skip all but the first and last sentences of each paragraph and not miss any of the novel’s nuance.
But still, you don’t write for the average reader; you write for the best readers, and you hope the average ones can still keep up. Or at least that’s my philosophy (now whether the best readers will like my work is another thing entirely).