Stephanie here! Gillian Bronte Adams is our guest today. She's sharing about her experience with cutting her debut novel from 120,000 words to 80,000, and we're giving away a paperback copy of it to one lucky commenter! Details are at the end of the post.
Gillian Bronte Adams is a sword-wielding, horse-riding, coffee-loving speculative fiction author from the great state of Texas. During the day, she manages the equestrian program at a youth camp. But at night, she kicks off her boots and spurs, pulls out her trusty laptop, and transforms into a novelist. Orphan’s Song, the first book in her fantasy trilogy The Songkeeper Chronicles, is now available. Hang out with Gillian on her blog, Twitter, or Facebook page where she loves chatting about all things related to fantasy, books, villains, and adventures.
When I signed with Amanda Luedeke as my agent, she told me that she really liked the story and characters of Orphan’s Song, but thought it was too long. I needed to trim it down to get at the true heart of the story.
At that time, Orphan’s Song clocked in at about 120,000 words.
My new goal was 80,000 words.
So I tore into my novel with sword in hand determined to cut 30,000 words from my story. At the beginning, I didn’t think it was possible. There was absolutely no way I could cut 10,000 words from my story, let alone 30,000. I would give it my best shot, but come on, those 30,000 words were necessary!
But I drew up a plan and held to it like a lifeline as I dove into the turbulent waters of my novel, and it wasn’t long before I was treading water and headed toward shore.
I decided I would…
1.Be intentional about every word I allowed to stay
This meant that I often read and re-read and re-wrote sentences and paragraphs at least ten times before deciding that I’d said exactly what I meant to say in the best words I could choose to say it in.
Now, the best words are not always the fewest words. I’m a lyrical writer. I love using cadence and rhythm and varying short and long sentences to develop vivid word pictures and suck the reader into the emotion of the moment. But knowing how to balance your love of words with a desire to keep the plot moving is key.
And a great descriptive phrase that’s bogged down in a massive paragraph full of description won’t have as great of an effect, so learning to minimize words for maximum impact is a great thing.
2. Ensure that every scene added to the story
Once I realized I needed to trim my scene count, I started boiling each scene down to its bones to figure out what really needed to be in my story. Each scene needed to move the story forward, whether it was advancing toward a key plot point, laying the grounds for conflict, revealing an important piece of information, or simply pushing my characters toward who they needed to be by the end.
If a scene didn’t accomplish at least one of those goals, and preferably more than one, it was voted off the Island.
This was where I learned to combine scenes to keep the story moving and amp up the conflict between characters who were focused on accomplishing different goals in the same scene.
3. Cut unnecessary dialogue
Sometimes once my characters got talking, it was so hard to get them to stop. Especially once those juicy tidbits of backstory started floating to the surface. But I found that I had to curtail my characters’ talkativeness to the important bits or wind up with scenes that were nearly as longwinded as a bagpipe.
It’s really important to do this with internal dialogue too. It’s easy to fall in love with being in your characters’ heads and being privy to all of their thoughts and emotions. But it’s also easy to slip into using internal dialogue as a means of telling what’s really going on, rather than letting the audience see it.
So if the internal dialogue is just telling, cut it. And if your characters’ conversations start getting out of hand, reel them back in. Cut to the chase. Focus on what’s important to further the plot, build character development, and give your story that flavor that makes it uniquely yours.
In the end, I cut my 30,000 words from the story and wound up with a novel that felt a thousand times cleaner and sharper. I still have a tendency to write long, but keeping these three things in the back of my mind has helped me reel in my crazy first drafts to something much more manageable and easier to edit later on.
Stephanie again. Here's Gillian's book:
|This is the actual copy I'll be mailing to you. After Christmas, because the idea |
of going back to the post office before... *Shudder*
Due to the unfortunate price of international shipping, this giveaway is only available to U.S. residents. When leaving your information, please make sure to be accurate so we can reach you should you win! We will be updating this post with the winner once we've selected him or her.
Most writers tend to "write short" or "write long" like Gillian does. Which one are you?