Thursday, February 12, 2009

Aaakkk! Get Out the Razor.

By Nichole Giles

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.


LexiconLuvr said...

I'm intrigued by your story. Every time you post about it, I always wish I could ask you questions.

Loved the picture that went with the post. It's perfect for making revisions! (Well, it should be. Sometimes it doesn't feel that way.)

Jenn said...

I write by chapter, and in the past I've even written by scenes - each scene in its own file so they're easier to find.

What I do is keep a list in an Excel spreadsheet with the wordcount for each chapter in it, and a cell at the bottom that totals all the chapters up automatically.

Of course, something like that will only help you with your /next/ book. Good luck with this one! It's probably actually a good thing to have too much written than not enough. That's always my problem

Nichole Giles said...

You know, one of the things I learned in my class this weekend--something I knew but hadn't thought about for a while--is that it's okay to over write something, as long as you cut it down later.

When you write something with lots of voice, lots of emotion, those things stay in even when scenes and even entire chapters have to go.

Last night I combined two chapters and cut about four-thousand words and I'm just getting started! Wish me luck.

Keith Fisher said...

You know you could put it all back write some more and make it a sequel. Just a thought

Nichole Giles said...

Thanks, Keith. There will be a sequel, but not from the cuttings of the original. I promise, I won't hurt the story.