Six weeks ago, I began the third round of revisions for my latest novel, Time Passages. I also sent it to my two best readers, Ginny and Margaret, who are founding members of my much needed support group. Obviously, I would be changing things as they read, but this felt like the most efficient process. When I sent the manuscript to them, I warned them that it was too long—94,047 words, 406 pages. “I need to cut 9000 words.”
I am nearly through my revisions. I’ve left some issues that require research since I will need to set aside serious time for that (my writing schedule right now is only an hour a day), and there are other questions that I want to discuss with Ginny and Margaret. As for shortening the book, I’m not doing so well. I am up to page 331 with 69 pages left to go, and so far I have cut 1911 words, which translates to seven pages.
Only another 7000 words to go!
Obviously, that won’t be happening in the final 69 pages.
Every writer has heard that bit of advice, attributed to William Faulkner (and enlivened by Stephen King), that you have to be willing to kill your darlings. I know this advice and use it with clients and students. I generally interpret it as needing to cut away overwritten passages, forays into glorious and unnecessary description, side treks into psychology to explain a character’s oddities. So, I have been rewriting or deleting sentences that need tightening or are ultimately useless.
The description of my protagonist’s favorite wine bar? Gone. (Half a page.) The redundant dialogue during the Thanksgiving dinner scene. Gone. (Page and a half.) The protagonist holding forth on her view of history at a Christmas party? Cutting that tomorrow, probably close to two pages.
That still is not enough. I will have to move beyond the level of sentences and paragraphs and target more scenes. Or I can wait to talk to Ginny and Margaret and hope they say, “We love every word, every scene, every character! Don’t cut anything.”
That probably won’t happen. I’ll be sharpening my knife again tomorrow. Another 7000 words.