Thoughts on Manuscript Pruning

So as you may know, I’m trying to cut my manuscript by 21k words to bring it down to 100k. Ready for the current word count?

Drumroll, please.

dadadadadadada ((drum roll))

108,354 words

I know, right?!! I’m more than halfway there! Woo! And I didn’t even cut out that much — it’s mainly tightening up sentence structure, deleting adverbs, and destroying the word “suddenly” whenever I come across it. I have cut out a few scenes, but they’re always either redundant, never did make sense in the first place, or both.

So despite my initial worries about this whole process, I’m actually really glad I did it. The book is going to be much tighter now, which should make it a quicker and easier read without losing any of the fun/humor/romance/action/angst. (I’m kidding, there really isn’t any angst. Well, except for the part where ****** sells ****** to the ****** and then ******* kills ****** — but other than that, no angst!).

I’m positively chipper today, aren’t I? Maybe because I’m halfway down to 100k words, and I’m not even halfway through the manuscript yet. I wonder how short it will be when I’m finished? My current bet is 95k words. That’s still a decent length for a book, right? RIGHT?

It occurs to me that I might be getting ahead of myself. I’ve still got 8k words to cut, after all, and that’s going to take at least another few weeks. Cutting your manuscript is a marathon, not a sprint. Luckily, writers are particularly dangerous over short distances. Did I just directly contradict my metaphors? Yes. Did I horribly botch a LOTR quote? Also yes.

I’ve really got to work on that.

Anyway, I’m planning to record another vlog (because that didn’t take *forever* last time). As such, I shall share a secret with you:

My editor/manager will be appearing on the vlog!

She’s also my mom, so be nice if you happen to leave a comment. I don’t know what we’re going to talk about — I imagine I’ll take about an hour’s worth of footage, then cut it down to 5 minutes of random chatter — but whatever we talk about, it’ll be awesome. So stay tuned!

Phenomenal game of the day: ((click here to play!))

Try not to die when the unicorn evolves. It’s harder than it looks. And make sure to pop back here and tell me your high scores!!!

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Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

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18 thoughts on “Thoughts on Manuscript Pruning

  1. 3,122. My unicorn went up in flames really fast. Good work whittling down your manuscript, and I can’t wait to meet your editor. My mother tells everyone in the family she is my editor. She really just reads for typos and tells me if she likes covers, but I still grace her with the title. 🙂

    • Hahaha. You’ve gotta try again! The fun really starts when your unicorn evolves into a robot panda. And my mother actually is a legit editor – she even does it for her day job. Except she’s a technical writer, and my books are fluffy sci-fi fiction, so we bash heads a lot.

  2. Why not 105 K? 106.4K? To paraphrase Chico Marx, “I got a-plenty numbers”.

  3. Sounds like you’re having loads and loads of fun. My mother’s the kind of person who reads my work, nods her head and says, “that’s lovely”. Does she actually say lovely? No, she’s not an English woman from the 1800’s :P, typically a ‘nice’ or ‘good’ will suffice.

    • I’d say more satisfying than fun — I get a rush of accomplishment every time I knock the word count down another thousand words. Sometimes I wish my mother was like yours, lol. It would certainly make running ideas by her less painful.

      • I’d probably pump my fist with each deleted word, I would tire after about 15 words. It would make running ideas easier for you. She’d tell you that your idea about writing a trilogy about two unicorns who raise a human to become a cattle farmer would be a good idea. 😀

  4. I didn’t try the game, it would be auto-fail for me. 😉
    I always wonder why writers give themselves a word count as a target.
    I think Stephen King (yes, He the ultimate benchmark/guidepost/milestone…) says he just writes till the story’s done and then aims to chop about 20%. Was it in On Writing? If it’s still too fat for a single volume, consider a sequel, trilogy, series, serial or Dark Tower-like epic!
    Besides “Suddenly”, other words to cut, if possible, are “that”, “was” and “somehow”. And if it’s first person don’t say “I” too much. Tricky but worth while. There’s my 20% 🙂
    Have fun! 🙂

    • Haha, thanks 😀

    • Anne Kathryn Smith

      Yes, that was Stephen King’s rough figure that I use for editing, too! If you’re still getting stuck on words to cut, try weeding out There is/are/was/were sentences, since it’s extra words and the point can be made much more nicely without the use of the verb to be.

  5. Chris

    I’m doing the same thing right now with my own novel and having a terrible time. Yes, deleting repeated words or changing words I can’t seem to remember the definitions of is easy (Oh, the nights spent in the thick of NaNoWriMo consulting Word’s thesaurus…what did it used to be? Shift+F7?); however, I have so much trouble letting go of writing I either labored over or really enjoy. Perhaps readers don’t need pages and pages of text describing, in thorough detail, the history of a specific brand of apple juice. Maybe I’ll take a leaf out of Mr. Tolkien’s book and just have long appendices. 🙂

    • I was thinking it would be cool to take some of the deleted chunks and post them on my website (or blog, or whatever) as a “deleted scenes” featurette. That’s the beauty of the internet!

  6. Word count is one of the trickiest parts of writing. I’m working on the third draft of a novel so I can make it short, tight, and publisher friendly. I’m finding it’s good practice to get me more focused on a tighter story and better plot.

    Good luck with your project. I agree with that moment of glee when you’ve cut down a thousand or so words.

    • Thanks 😀 Is the novel you’re working on the first one you’ve written?

      • I’ve finished 4 first drafts of novels and a novella. None of them are up to snuff for publication, hence why I’m on draft 3 of one.

        All of them have gargantuan word counts (except the novella). I’ve thought about splitting things into a series, but want to focus on writing one, good, solid book first. Once I get that published, then I’ll go back and see what I can do with what I’ve written.

      • I’ve finished 4 first drafts of novels and a novella. None of them are up to snuff for publication, hence why I’m on draft 3 of one.

        All of them have gargantuan word counts (except the novella). I’ve thought about splitting things into a series, but want to focus on writing one, good, solid book first. Once I get that published, then I’ll go back and see what I can do with what I’ve written.

        Also, sometimes I hack instead of prune to get the word count down.

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