The Writing Life

…a literary journey


editing

No, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, been whisked away into a cult or just sitting around, binge watching every season of Mad Men again. I’ve been trying to finish my edits on Oldsters in an effort to 1) let my beta reader have a go at it, and 2) leave time to polish and work on query letters before the Ft. Lauderdale conference in March.

Not that I have much time today either, but I’m unwilling to completely let my blog slide…so while I haven’t kept up my weekly greetings, just know I’m trying! Since time is limited today, I thought about what I could share that would be worthwhile in a quick soundbite…so I’m going to give you an inside peek at my editing list as it sits currently.

On the top of the list is: Get the word count down! When I finished the manuscript, I was at 122,219 words. Way too long, especially for a debut novel. Printing is expensive, and I know agencies would balk at trying to represent an upmarket story of that length. My goal is definitely to get under 100k, and I’m getting there!  Today as I continue to work down the list below, I sit at 106,837 – not too shabby. And that’s not any major scene cuts at all – it’s simply working hard to get rid of the unnecessary words. I truly believe I’ll easily hit the goal by finishing my list and giving it a once more quick read-over.

Do you need to cut your word count? Check out my list below and see if you’ve taken the time to make sure you’re not exploding in lazy writing – just one example…I did a find on the words ‘felt’, ‘feel’ and ‘feeling’…over 350 uses. I went thru every one of them and got down to 65. Right now I’m searching every use of the word, ‘were’. I started with 423. Not halfway thru, I’m trimmed over 100. This is the easiest fat trimming I’ve done!

  • ‘That’ vs. ‘Which’: This isn’t about cutting words, although I was able to trim some – it’s more about usage. Make sure you know the difference – restrictive clauses use ‘that’; unrestrictive – ‘which’. If what follows the word is necessary for the sentence to make sense, use ‘that’. If the words that follow don’t change the meaning of the sentence, ‘which’ works fine.
  • Numbers: I had to go back and make the decision to write out every numeral. Because my story encompasses the usage of decades, I had to check and make sure I didn’t write 1940’s in one place and 1970s in another. After doing some research, I went with the no apostrophe option.
  • You’ll enjoy this one…one of my main characters drives an SUV and I introduced it as such the first time around. I spent way too much time in my own head worrying about if I needed to carry that over throughout the story – should I keep saying SUV, can I say car, should I say truck, vehicle…seriously – WAY TOO MUCH TIME. I had to come up with something, part of my story is a road trip and the word, whatever it was going to be, was going to get used. Finally, a writer I worked with at the time at my day job looked at me and said – “Car, just say car.” The look she gave me stopped me dead in my tracks – quit being stupid about your time, she meant, get over it already. I did 🙂
  • ‘Had been”: Wow! This was the first search I did in my manuscript…you gotta love it when your software alerts you by saying, “You use this a lot!” Shame on me…but it was fine for the first draft. I trimmed so many of these, I was seriously proud to get from the hundreds to 11 – that’s right, 11! This is where you get some serious writing practice. Having to get rid of the lazy writing and think seriously about an interesting way to say something.
  • ‘Were’, ‘Feeling/felt/feel’: Already mentioned above – a huge chopping session!

That’s what I’ve accomplished so far. What’s left? A lot, but that’s okay because I know it’s bringing me to my goal of getting below 100k.

  • ‘Saw’ / ‘look’: Another big crutch of mine, and I’m counting on getting most of them out of there!
  • ‘-ly’ words: A good chance to scrutinize all the unneeded adverbs, especially in dialogue attributes
  • ‘-ing’ words
  • ‘just’, ‘really’, ‘very’: Most of the time, not needed!
  • ‘can’: Again, not always necessary

If you do the hard work by editing out these types of words, there’s a chance some of those darlings you don’t want to kill could stay, as long as the move the story forward!

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