In projects past, I always kept a good handle on word count. After each day of writing, I’d do a word count and figure out how many words I’d written for that day, and then the total for the manuscript. I thought I was being so smart when I decided to try something different when I started my current book. I saved my work by chapter.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you. It’s easier to keep track of where you left off the last time, and helps you keep a grip on all the threads you’ve weaved through your storyline. Plus, writing a synopsis feels less overwhelming when you can start working on it chapter by chapter.
But there is one large, major, extreme problem with doing it this way. There is never a time when you can actually check the word count of the entire manuscript at once. This isn’t a new revelation or anything, just something I ignored until the other day. I don’t know what prompted me, but I got out a calculator and added up my words.
HOLY SHMOLY! My book was way, way too long. By a minimum of forty-thousand words. And before you ask (because lots of people have) it’s too long by industry standards—because, young adult books should never be a hundred and thirty thousand words—and also by my standards—because it’s just to stinking long.
So what do I do? Well, after fretting about it for an hour or so, I decided I’d figure it out in the morning and went to bed. As luck would have it, the next morning I was scheduled to attend an intermediate novel writing class.
During the class, I picked up a few tidbits of wisdom—mostly things I’d heard before, but needed to be reminded—that helped me know what I need to do. And the bottom line is, it’s time to get out my razor blade. And no, I’m not slashing my wrists. Although, my characters might think I’m slashing theirs. (Remember the scene from “Becoming Jane” where Jane Austen is cutting words out of her manuscript with a razor blade because there is no delete key on an ink well? Yeah, that’s me today.)
After reading really deeply, and considering the importance of every scene, description, idea, and sub-plot, I know I’ll be able to cut this considerably. And then, because the original was written with all these things and lots of emotion, I know what I leave in will be much better with the loss of what I’ve taken out. It will all be okay.
So, that crisis will be averted. Now, it’s time to get out the scissors.
Oh, and before I forget, happy Valentine's Day! Thanks for hanging out with us.