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Monday, July 26, 2010

Unwriting (or My Novel and I are Both On a Diet)

I spent most of the weekend writing. Or more accurately, unwriting - a word that describes what I’m doing much better than ‘editing’. I finished my mystery, HUNTER’S WAY, last summer and, to use that old birth analogy, it weighed in at a whopping 150,000 words. No problem, I was sure my crew of beta readers would point out to me lots of areas that rambled or dragged or were totally unnecessary, and I’d be able to start trimming the fat. Unfortunately, they loved it. Pretty much as it. A writer’s dream come true. I received great suggestions for changes and corrections but nothing on major cuts.

Even in my unpublished ignorance, I know I’m going to have a hard time interesting an agent in a 150,000 word mystery from a new author, so I started hacking away. It’s hard. Beyond the “but I really like that scene” woes, there’s the risk of snipping away a vital clue or cutting a carefully woven thread and leaving it dangling. Then there’s the whole “show, don’t tell” issue. Showing makes a better story but telling takes fewer words and finding the happy medium is a challenge.

So that’s how I spent my weekend. And how I’ll be spending a lot more. I’m down to 128,000 words now, just over halfway through the story with a major cut/rewrite coming up.  You know, writing is a lot more fun than unwriting.  Wish me luck.

I’m currently enjoying: Delicious and Suspicious by Riley Adams

Quote of the day: Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.


Dru said...

how many words do you have to cut it down to?

Love your quote of the day.

Linda Leszczuk said...

I think I can get by with 100,000. I haven't found a lot of specific guidelines that apply. If you know of any resources in that area, please point me in that direction.

And thanks, that quote's been one of my favorites forever.

MaryC said...

Good luck! I always love the editing phase because I get to play with the story without the pressure of producing. Sounds like this is more pressurized for you.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Thanks, Mary. I usually like "playing" with a story, too. In fact, I'll probably enjoy doing it with this one, after I get it whittled down to a managable size.

Maria Zannini said...

I have the opposite problem. I usually start out with a 50k word manuscript and build up.

It's my advertising copy writing roots. I have to get the scene down in the least amount of words and still get you to buy the shaving creme at the end of the story. :)

Linda Leszczuk said...

I'm usually a bit more concise (business/tech writing roots) but this story just kept growing and growing and growing...

Thanks for commenting.

Elizabeth McKenzie said...

Be very careful. I did that. I was up to 90,000 words, headed for 100,000. I trimmed 10,000 words. Now I'm under 80,000. I don't like being that low and it's getting worse. As I tighten up the story and edit, the word count goes down and I can't think of a place where I can add a few thousand words, so, get it to about 90,000 before you edit it for the final edit. You'll probably lose another 8 to 10 thousand after that.

I'm looking forward to reading it.

Linda Leszczuk said...


Because I was so far over what I think an agent would consider, I've got to do some major slashing. I think this round I'll be going from obese to overweight so I'll still have room for tightening. My real fear is that I'm losing too much of the story. Was that a problem for you?

I look forward to reading yours, as well.