Monday, March 22, 2010

Word Elimination

So, this weekend I pulled out Margarita Nights once again. My sole intent was to really look at the first chapter and make sure it was what I wanted it to be. Amazingly, it pretty much was. Okay, it wasn't perfect, but perfection doesn't exist. I made a few tweaks here and there, minor things really. And, you know what, the conflict was right there, first chapter, first section - woo-hoo!!! Yay for me!

Now, I also began eliminating words. I was at 126,000 words which, no matter which way you look at it, is too many words. I began reading and - zip, zap, zang - I ended up eliminating 500 words in the first (there are three per chapter) section of Chapter One. I realized, if I could delete 500 per section x 24 chapters well, that's 36,000 words. Woo-hoo!

Well, I don't need that many words eliminated. So, I revised my 1500 words to 1,000 words per chapter which should eliminate 24,000 words by the end of the book, which would put me at 102,000 words . . . a totally acceptable number.

Now, I can tell you that the majority of what I eliminated in the first section was repetitive stuff. I don't need to tell my readers - five, six, twelve times - the same thing over and over about the main character. I need to mention it once, maybe twice, and then, well, enough said. So, after the second mention of pertinent information, I eliminated all other repetitive sections. Done!

Then, I looked more closely at things the characters did . . . reached for a glass and smiled, nodded his head and shrugged, reached for a chip and . . . well, I'm sure you get the picture. So, I eliminated the unnecessary. I mean, do we as readers really need to know that the character nodded his head and shrugged? What if he just nodded his head? Or, just shrugged? Isn't that enough? So, I took out the excess and before I knew it I was down 500 words.

I worked my way through Chapter One yesterday. I have 23 more chapters to go.

Now, as anyone who reads this blog knows, I was struggling with the word elimination a few months ago. I didn't think it was possible to easily eliminate a huge chunk of words. Well, I was wrong. It is possible.

1) Get rid of the words that end in -ly . . . for the most part. Sometimes, people laugh softly or loudly. Hey, it happens in real life and it can happen in fiction.

2) Get rid of words you over use.

3) Get rid of unnecessary words.

4) Get rid of the repetitive stuff.

5) Do what works best for you and your writing.

6) In the end, break the rules you must break.

7) Never, ever, ever, sacrifice the essence of your story, or the brilliance of your writing, to eliminate words. I made this one up, and am sticking to it as I chuckle softly! Ha!

8) Remember that some agents don't give a crap about word counts.

9) Remember that some agents do give a crap about word counts.

10) Remember that no matter how many words you eliminate to reach an acceptable word count, some editor, some where, is going to suggest you eliminate even more.

Okay, with all that said, I'll be diving into the word elimination pool over the course of the next month or so. I'll also be researching agents and working on my query letter. Oh, my family is invading for Easter so that will occupy a bit of my time as well. Oh, and I have a few other writing things I'll be doing as well.



Tess said...

Woa! this is a lot of math early in the morning. ouch.

srsly though, you bring up such an important point. our manuscripts have to be tight. it's easier said than done but it seems you've got a good process going on here.

and, hooray for loving the first chapter after taking a break from it. that rocks!

Jon Paul said...

Scott--I find word elimination extremely tricky too. These are great tips, and I'm happy things are moving forward on your WIP.

BTW, there's a little something for you over at my place--in view of your hard work.

Claire Dawn said...

Totally know what you mean. Going through my first two chapters, I'm down from about 6,000 to about 4,000.

Thing is, I wasnt' actually trying to eliminate words!

Scott said...

Tess - I'm all about the math first thing in the morning . . . NOT! The tighter the better . . . in manuscripts and not my jeans! Geesh!

Jon Paul - you're welcome for the tips . . . use them as you see fit. I think I made the word elimination more daunting than I should have in the first place. It's been easy, perhaps too easy, to go in and do the elimination this time around.

Claire Dawn - oh, no! I hate when that happens. Still, word counts are getting lower lately, so maybe it's a good thing!

Lady Glamis said...

Wow! GREAT JOB with word elimination. Your book is really long! My book was 102k to begin with, and then I rewrote it and it was 76k, then I revised and now it's 86k I think. A great place, but who knows. :)

Sharon Mayhew said...

Congratulations on your eliminations...When I first started writing it was hard to cut words, but now my stories get better after every round of eliminations.

Jemi Fraser said...

This is exactly where I am - eliminating repetitious phrases and why-did-I-put-that-word-in-there words.

Have you tried Wordle yet - it's great for seeing overused words :)

Anonymous said...

Cutting words is my absolute favorite part of writing. Your whole entry said "fun" to me.

Jon Paul said...

Scott--liked this one so much, I included it in my Friday Link Love post. Again, great work.