In honor of the new year, it's time to lose some weight. I don't mean you, but your manuscript. Maybe it's just me, but I tend to go on and on in my writing. Since I don't outline (shudders), I usually have to go through multiple (multiple, multiple) drafts of my MS before it's ready for human consumption.
And at least one of those rounds is just to cut the word count to something appropriate. (I won't go over that here. Check Colleen Lindsay's blog for a great guide.) My latest round? I had to cut 10%, which for me is about 8000 words.
Holy deletage, people. That's a lot of words. That's more than a just a few dialog tags, you know?
So, as with anything I do in writing, I start in small steps.
1. Sweat the small stuff. This includes but is not limited to: dialog tags, adverbs, adjectives, tedious blow-by-blow action ("I got up and walked to the door. I twisted the knob and yanked the door open." We don't need a blow-by-blow. Just say, "I strode to the door and yanked it open." That's about half the words.), and "no-duh" statements ("The sunglasses fell to the ground." You can remove "to the ground." Most of us understand gravity. And hey! It's 3 words!). These are small changes, but can reduce your word count.
2. Once is usually enough. This sounds like a "no, duh, Elana" but seriously. I had gone through my MS, deleting deleting deleting. I didn't have like two of the same word on a page or anything. That's not what this is. This is what I tell my critique partners: "You've said the same thing three times using different words."
Carolyn read my MS, and pointed out that I was establishing setting in multiple ways. Sure, I'd used different words. Different senses. But they were all establishing the--same--thing.
Once I realized this is how I write, I can usually find sentences (WHOLE sentences) that I can take out. I choose the best ones and delete the rest. You can delete hundreds, if not thousands of words this way.
3. Keep your eye on the big picture. I read through my MS, writing what happens in each scene on a tiny post it. Seriously, guys, it was like a 5-word thing of what was going on (I don't even outline AFTER the novel is written). Afterward, I looked at the scenes and what they did to advance A) the plot B) the character arc or C) nothing. Anything that fell into the C) category got the axe. If I felt like there was pertinent information I absolutely had to have in the cut scene, I wove it into a different scene that already accomplished A) or B).
Sure, it's hard. No, I didn't want to. Does that matter? Not really.
Hopefully you don't ever have to delete 10% of your manuscript to make it saleable. But if you do, I hope you find some of these suggestions helpful.