Thursday, June 3, 2010

THURSDAY'S CLEANING: Teeth Picking

I'm rather sure that I have paper fragments between my teeth. No, maybe it's just letters.


Word - (N), a unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds or their written representation, that functions as a principal carrier of meaning. (according to Dictionary.com.)


Cut - (V), to abridge or shorten; edit by omitting a part or parts. (according to Dictionary.com.)


Being a 'young' writer, I learn something new about craft/technique, myself, and all of you everyday. Sure, I'll never stop learning, striving to grow, but more so in the beginning. When I committed myself to writing, I dove in with every inch of my being. Starting surfing the web, gorging on articles, books on writing, reading, blog posts, and took a few classes. I began attending a writer's group--where at first I discovered how much I really sucked and had to learn...all good. Oh, yeah...and I wrote, nonstop. Whatever came into my skull filtered through my fingers and into my laptop.  


Can you say TOTAL OVERLOAD?


Some of the info I was learning stuck with me; other info, my brain chose to store away for a later date. Word count was one.


So I wrote a horrific first manuscript, realized my flaws--some of them at least--and moved onto a second manuscript. My current muse.


A couple of weeks ago, I began searching my manuscript for unnecessary, overused, or extraneous words or phrases or sentences. Classic term: editing/ word cutting. I was still over my personal goal for word count by about 18,000 words. Yeah. That's not including the first two edits where I chomped out about 12,000. But HAH, that's still a far cry from my first word fest at 155,000 words. Yikes. It'll take some serious editing to get that baby into shape someday...Someday.


Here's a few points I've learned about word count and cutting:


1) Check the recommended or average word count for the genre you're writing BEFORE you begin to write. Give yourself some free equilibrium. 


2) Follow those guidelines. Sure, a few manuscripts make it to publication that are over the normal word count. But it's rare.


3) Click on the 'Find' button and type in words like that, actually, through, very, 'to be' verbs. Wow...surprised. A lot, huh? This doesn't mean they shouldn't be used, only to watch out for how often you use them. Here's a list. (This is a short list. I have a great list bookmarked...yeah, can't find it right now, but I will. When I do, I'll pass it on to you.


My findings were not just helpful in cutting word count but also as an exercise. I learned to re-write, find an alternative way to get my point across: Write more concisely. 


4) Look for repetitive thoughts. Even though a beautifully written thought is just that--beautiful, if you already communicated that info to your audience repeating it is like an eternal stutter. The reader will most probably flutter the pages between your cover and get bored. I don't gather boredom is what we're going for.


These are only a few facts I've picked-up that have actually stuck with me. I'll continue this next Thursday, elaborating a tad more. So what's your greatest word cutting expedition? How much did you cut? 
(BTW, I've cut almost 4,000 from that 18,000 out of the first 7 chapters alone. Good or bad? I see it as good. I'm writing tighter sentences paragraphs and chapters.)


OOH...Only 7 days left to enter my contest!! Closes June 9th. Come on, enter away. For those of you already entered,+5 more entries if you tweet or blog about it again. +3 more entries for everyone of your followers or friends you send my way who enter and follow me. Leave the total in the comments or email me with the total and links!!

17 comments:

  1. You're not alone. I cut 10,000 words from my manuscript in two separate revisions since November. I used Elana Johnson's technique of breaking up the manuscript into chunks to revise in a month and a word list of about 50 overused words from Janice Hardy. Between the words and cutting unnecessary scene set ups, I achieved my goal.

    I just started on the second book in the series. I'm going to use the 50 overused words as I go so I don't have to do it at the end. It was tedious. And I'm keeping a better track of the word count so I don't so over in my draft. I'm hoping I can finish with 2 to 3 drafts rather than about 10. We'll see.

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  2. Sheri,
    You'll laugh when I tell you how many words I've cut (I wish I had read this post before I started writing!)

    I wrote my first manuscript and it hit 80,000 mark but realized too much was backstory, so I cut about 30,000 words.

    Then I wrote a whole new ending (originally planned to be a sequel) and that took it back up to 150,000. Of course, very quickly I found out this was completely unacceptable and promptly cut over 50,000 words! Gosh - I know - I wrote the volume of two novels! Dumb, dumb. I probably should have just put that ms down and started a whole new one. But nope, just kept slicing and dicing away.

    Sorry for the rambling comment, Sheri! Great post!

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  3. Wow, you are an editing guru to be able to cut out that many words. Also pop it into autocrit.com (for free) and you'll find even more ah-ha moments. I tend to write skinny and have to fill things out during the edit. Seems you write fat and have to slim things down.

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  4. I know how you feel. My first ms still needs editing and I just can't bring myself to do it anymore. It drives me CRAZY- I have to do it in little spurts or else I go blind.

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  5. Thanks for the heads-up on Elana's technique, Natalie. I just checked it out. Awesome.

    Joanne, feel your pain. Ever need another set of eyes...

    LM, thanks for the link. And I must be a trimmer. LOL

    C.Q.Girl, I know. Sometimes the best medicine for a ms is to put it away for a while. ";-)

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  6. I have been hacking away at my MS too, I'm almost down to my goal, only about 5,000 words left!

    One thing that really helped me find my "darlings" was Wordle, it makes a word cloud highlighting the frequent flyers... I was amazed I could upload my whole MS.

    That has helped a lot, I might go chapter by chapter next with Wordle, because it seems like I go through phases with overused words, and when I'm writing about certain topics I tend to use the same words over and over. :)

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  7. I've cut an entire novel and started from the beginning. It's tough, but sometimes all you can do is let go.

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  8. It's true, I've cut about a whole book of words too. Its hard, but the writing is better because of it. =)

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  9. Oh how I hate editing! My first MS was a complete mess! I call it my practice MS. Love your blog by the way, I just started following!

    Good Luck! Renae

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  10. I cut more than 20,000 words from mine! Not to fear my dear. :)

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  11. I actually have the opposite problem - I end up with less words than I mean to. Which makes my job even harder! Durn.

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  12. It seems like I'm constantly on a word-cutting expedition. It helps now that I can see what will go, even as I type it - I get less emotionally attached to those pretty little words that way. Writing MG (hello 65,000 words MAX) was a brutal introduction to that, but so, so good to understand how many words you can do without.

    And my blog posts are SO not edited the same way. HA! That probably went without saying. :)

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  13. You're so right here. Whenever I ctrl+f for "that" "just" "very" I'm always amazed that I allow so many filler words in my MS!!!

    Have fun with your cutting/revising :)

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  14. AHHH!!! I have had to cut several words before and it kills every time!!

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  15. I'm amazed at how many weak verbs I use. Ugh! Great post, thanks.

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  16. Good advice. I think I could string together 4 "thats" in a sentence and not realize it. Blah...

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  17. Great post! I learned so much, also from the comments. And thanks for the helpful links. You're very kind, Sheri.

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