Cutting 20k from my manuscript …

Yesterday I began my epic quest to cut 21,307 words from Imminent Danger. Gah. I knew it would be a big job going in, but cutting that many words is something you can’t really understand until you’ve experienced it for yourself.

The first thing I did was print out the book, then grab a red pen and flip through it. I wasn’t doing a line-by-line edit, I was looking for entire sections that I could chop out. You know, scenes that were fun but didn’t contribute to the story, unnecessary exposition, too-long battle scenes, etc. So I spent a few hours doing that.

Then I went into Word and cut out all the sections I’d circled. I was pretty excited, because I got rid of several large chunks, so I was hoping for a massive reduction in word count. The result? I cut 3,000 words. Now, that’s a lot of words. But it’s nowhere close to 20k. Back to the drawing board.

Since cutting out major chunks didn’t work, I’ll have to go through the story line by line. And while this is easily the most onerous editing task I’ve ever undertaken, I’m buoyed by the thought that when I’m finally finished, my book will be better than ever before. What I really need is one of those eighties training montages, where there’ll be shots of me frowning at my manuscript, sitting in different positions around my living room, drinking coffee, falling asleep at my desk, etc. And then two minutes of montaging will pass, and I’ll thunk the completed manuscript down on the desk while triumphant music plays in the background.

Like that’s going to happen.

I’ll keep you updated as I go. I’ve cut out approximately 3,600 words so far, with another thousand hopefully going today. I need to be done soon, because I need to get the book published before the end of October if I want to take advantage of the Christmas season.

As for getting the book copy-edited, I’m still on the fence. A few of you have said that $2,200 is way too much to spend on editing, which I agree with. The other alternative, however, is to do it myself, then run the risk of missing something and being eternally embarrassed when everyone and their mothers point it out to me. Here are the three options, as I see it:

Option One: iUniverse copy-edit

$2,200, 2-3 weeks, guaranteed placement into the Editor’s Choice program (which opens the book up for other assorted awards)

Option Two: freelance copy-edit

I don’t know how much freelancers charge. I assumed it would be less than iUniverse, but the first link I looked at was $30 per 1000 words — e.g. $3,000. Anyone know any good, cheap copy-editors?

After the freelance copy-edit, I would fork over another $250 to iUniverse for a return evaluation, where they would consider me for Editor’s Choice (placement not guaranteed).

Option Three: do it myself

This one is free, obviously, plus $250 for the return evaluation. My current thought is to start with this option, submit the manuscript, and see what happens. If I get the Editor’s Choice, grand. If not, I can consider getting a professional copy-edit. Although if the manuscript isn’t up-to-snuff, I’m paying an extra $250 for the return evaluation with nothing to show for it.

I recently discovered the “poll” function on WordPress, so I’m putting this to a vote. What do you think? What should I do?

Ain’t it purdy? I gotta use polls more often. And thanks for listening to me ramble!

Internet funtimes

I’m pretty sure everyone in the entire universe has seen this video, but I nevertheless present it here for your nostalgic viewing pleasure (note: the song rocks, but the real fun begins at 0:50):

And for the funny image of the day …

Categories: iUniverse, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

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25 thoughts on “Cutting 20k from my manuscript …

  1. Candace Knoebel

    You can do it!

  2. Good luck with cutting your manuscript down!

  3. Another possible option for copy-editing: if you know someone who is trustworthy in the grammar and spelling departments, you could ask them to read your manuscript and note instances of misspelled words and problematic grammar. If the person is a fellow writer, you could reimburse her or him with a similar favour, or work our some other means of remuneration. And of course you would mention them in your Acknowledgements.
    As to cutting, I have no credibility, being the Queen of the Epic Novel. But believe it or not, my epics were once even longer. One method I used was similar to what you’ve described, except that I actually catalogued each scene and decided what its role was. Then I slashed the ones deemed superfluous. But in the end you do have to go through the whole thing line by line, if only to make sure there is no reference elsewhere to stuff that you’ve deleted!
    Happy slashing!

    • Haha, thanks. I actually did get some friends of mine to proofread the book. The problem is that all my remaining errors are American punctuation (I’m Canadian, so I didn’t know about these punctuation differences). I suppose I could go make an American friend and recruit their help … 🙂

      • Hello! Not to presume anything, but I just thought that I would offer my services. 🙂 I’m an English major, and I’m also American, believe it or not! I’m quite interested in this book you have going here, and I’d be more than happy to give it another look-see and correct any of these crazy ‘Canadian errors’ you have.
        Lemme know!

  4. brokeartist

    You can do it Michelle. It will take some time, but I’ll bet it’s going to be great when you’re done.

  5. Sean

    I’d gladly help, but I don’t think my editing skills are quite what is necessary here, lol.

  6. wordsaremagic

    Having copy-edited all three of my self-published books, I would go for doing it yourself! It’s probably more important to reduce the size of the book to the minimum word count you are happy with without sacrificing anything essential to the story, give it to a good friend to read ONE MORE TIME with an eye for spelling, grammar and punctuation rather than story, and send it to iUniverse without further ado. You will be happy and proud when it’s published even if a few typos and mispells slide under the radar! I have worked with Outskirts Press and know how easy it is to get sucked up into all sorts of expensive “extras,” but I don’t think they really improve the final product. If you have a great story to tell, readers will find it.


  7. Why are you doing it in the first place?

    • The cutting, or the editing? The cutting because I want to conform to the YA industry standards, in case my book becomes big enough to attract the eye of a traditional publishing company. Also, it could definitely benefit from some cuts, as sections do drag on. And it will be cheaper to print if it’s shorter, which can only help sales of physical books.

      The editing, because all books need editing 🙂

  8. This is an outside-the-box question, but could you in fact make this into two or even three books? Sorry to complicate things. 🙂

    • Haha no complication. No, it isn’t long enough to make into 2 books. It’s just a little too long for one book. If I chopped the book in half, it would be waaaaaaaay too short. Plus the overarching plot works in the span of one book, not two.

  9. HGfan1016

    wait why do you need to get rid of some of your book? can’ it just be long like all the “Harry Potter”s?

    • Well, the original 3 HPs were very short, and then got longer once JK Rowling became an actual, well-known author. So if I want longer stories, I’d have to get at least a little famous first 🙂

  10. She edits. She’ll also look at the first 10 pages and tell you your most common mistakes for a fixed fee (at least she’s mentioned it).

  11. Pingback: 116,237 words and counting … « Michelle Proulx Official

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