There are plotters and there are pantsers.
There are putter-inners and taker-outers.
I’m the latter in both cases. My drafts are always too long. Woe!
After another round of feedback from my beta readers, I decided to go with the
persistence wisdom of the lovely Beth Hull, and pulled out one of my characters (to save her for another book). My character was not at all happy about this, by the way. Even when I assured her that her new home will be even better. I haven’t heard from her since. I hope she comes back.
At any rate, I was sure this most recent set of revisions would result in a shorter manuscript. Since, you know, my goal was to strictly take things out. Well, somehow, when I was done, the manuscript was even longer than when I started! Which was endlessly amusing to my writer buddies (read: the poor saps who were often with me while I bashed my head against the table. “How is this possible?!”). It just made me want to cry. Especially since I was so happy with all the new additions.
Danica was forced, once again, to talk me off the ledge, and pointed me to a handful of posts by writers (aspiring authors as well published ones) who were in the same boat as me: stuck with a too-long manuscript. They had all gone through their manuscripts to check for repetition, and the necessity of every chapter and character and plot line, and still had a too-high WC. So then they went through their manuscripts in search of commonly overused and/or unnecessary words to axe. Some claimed they loped off 5-15k with this method alone—never touching a single scene!
Madness, I said.
But I tried it anyway because I was out of ideas.
It took me almost two weeks to get through the list (we compiled it from the several smaller lists), but, by jove, I cut out fourteen thousand words! Fourteen! Amazing.
I’m posting the list below for anyone who’d like it. It was helpful to print it out, and then cross the words off as I went.
about, actually, almost, appear, around
B – D
basically, behind, close to, down
even, eventually, exactly, extremely
F – J
finally, fairly, gaze/gazed, had, headed/heading, in order, just, just then
K – N
kind of, like, look/looked, mostly, nearly
O – R
only, out, over, possibly, practically, probably, rather, really
said, sat, seems/seemed, seriously, simply, sort of, somehow, somewhat, suddenly, supposedly
terribly, that, together, totally, truly
U – W
up, usually, utterly, very, was, were
I tackled each word individually. Typed it into find (click “find whole words only”), assessed the usefulness of the word in the sentence (sometimes the usefulness of the sentence itself–or the paragraph!), and then moved on to the next one. Reading sentences out of context made it easier to cut things, too. There were a few times where I deleted half a page! It’s like losing
ten twenty thirty pounds!
I’m not going to lie… the experience was god awful. I spent hours and hours in Panera, often begging my writing buddy to “please just stab me in the face!” I said it so often she started to ignore me altogether. Sometimes I’d bounce up and down in the booth, or laugh hysterically, or declare I needed a cookie. Sometimes all three happened at once.
Every other type of editing I’ve done has required some level of creativity. This was tedious. I hate tedious!
It was worth it in the end, though. If you attempt this, know it will take hours (and the general breakdown of whatever sanity you might still have). I expected “that” to be one of the words to take me the longest, but the one that nearly killed me was “out.” It took two days. Two days.
What are your trouble words?
Oh, and if anyone has others to add to the list, let me know!