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Old 05-06-2010, 06:32 PM   #1
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Extreme Editing

I just slashed more than 10,000 words from my novel draft. Boy did that hurt.

That makes over 80,000 words cut since January. I started with one novel at 50k and the other at 185k and they're both now sitting at a hair above 100k.

The 185k book (Lethe) was drafted when I was an oblivious practitioner of loggorrhea (via over-description and ultra-petty minute action).

In revising I came across repeated scenes, and didn't cut just one of them, I cut both.

Painful work, but I think the end result will be much more readable. The loss of detail will also make it a bit more mysterious, though hopefully not too cryptic.
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Old 05-07-2010, 10:00 AM   #2
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That happens, man. You think it's great when you first put it down, then you (or somebody editing for you) go back through it and realize that things have to change. It's not always fun, but (generally) it's good for the novel.
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Old 05-07-2010, 11:33 PM   #3
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You hear about writers that need to learn how to cut things, but I have never heard of a writer that cuts too much. I am sure your novel is better for the cuts.
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Old 05-08-2010, 06:17 PM   #4
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I agree with Tricorp. That's a big chunk to cut out. I'd say put it aside for now and go back to it a few weeks from now and see if it still makes sense and has all the salient facts a reader needs to know about it.

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Old 05-09-2010, 11:57 AM   #5
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That's the kind of editing I call shrediting.
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Old 05-09-2010, 04:24 PM   #6
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The really big chunk I just removed is exciting and full of description, but it kind of just delays and sidetracks the story. Also, something happens in this scene that raises questions about the plausibility of what transpires elsewhere, so I think I made the right decision. It just hurts to see all those days and days of writing flushed away.

I also removed three minor characters and reduced anothers' prominence to a cameo. I liked those characters. They interest me. It hurts to lose them. But I think ... again, that I made the write decision.

What's even more striking is that with that cut from 185k to 102k I've also probably written about 20k of entirely new stuff, so I've actually cut about 100k. It amazes me that that book still looks anything like my draft.

I never used to be able to be so brutal with my writing. Maybe it means I'm learning how to be a better writer. I hope.

We'll see in about a month when I expect to finish this thing.
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Old 05-10-2010, 09:16 AM   #7
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I usually work to the formula: Second draft = first draft minus 10%, but sounds like you 've gone well beyond that.

I love editing something down almost more than writing it in the first place.

This probably means I'm strange.
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Old 05-10-2010, 12:33 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by NickSpalding View Post
I usually work to the formula: Second draft = first draft minus 10%, but sounds like you 've gone well beyond that.

I love editing something down almost more than writing it in the first place.

This probably means I'm strange.

My pleasure kicks in at about draft number four. By that time the painful decisions are over and its just a matter of sanding down and adding some sheen.
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Old 05-17-2010, 11:09 AM   #9
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I'm down to 96.5K now (from 185K) and that's after adding some new stuff. I still have some chaff to reap and then my book will start growing again. But not too much more, I'm at the climax of the story right now, all that's left is resolution.

My goal is to have this ready for Beta Readers by the end of June (or July 15, at the latest, before I go to Ethiopia.)

Any Beta readers interested perusing a fantasy about the afterlife for copy/consistency errors?

I have to warn folks that the story's pretty weird. You won't recognize much from other authors' depiction of the afterlife, except maybe for Dante and the Purgatorio.

It's also mostly written in first person, present tense, which I know some people find annoying to read, but I find exhilarating to write.

The structure is pretty traditional, with a quest and a satisfying yet intriguing ending, unlike Xenolith.
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Old 05-19-2010, 11:15 AM   #10
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Yahoo!

Down to 92K and still more to cut. This one's going to be sleek. It's got the chewiest, pithiest structure of anything I've ever tried to write. Not to mention, a mind-blowing ending.

I know it's going to alienate some readers, but I think I have something special here, and I'm not one to be proud of my own work. Of course this could simply be the euphoria of the new. If I let it sit a month, maybe it will begin to fester.
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Old 05-19-2010, 11:37 AM   #11
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The real question is this: have you ever ADDED a ton when editing?
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Old 05-19-2010, 12:43 PM   #12
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The real question is this: have you ever ADDED a ton when editing?
Oh good grief, yes. When I was younger and trying to write a book I'd probably slap in an extra twenty percent in the second draft, taking the 'kitchen sink' approach to writing that didn't serve me well at all.

You get so caught up in your own...er...'genius' when you first start writing that the temptation to add another punchy adverb or stick in a bit of extra description about the heroine's breats size is almost too much to bear.
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Old 05-20-2010, 06:59 AM   #13
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This is getting ridiculous. I'm at 89k now. The euphoria has blown over as I realize that I probably will have to add a bunch at the end of this process.

But a lot of the stuff I cut was chaff. My characters were dilly-dallying and not advancing the plot. There was a lot of detailed description and uninteresting introspection but very little tension.

I liked a lot of the scenes I cut. They resonated with me because they were based on places and situations that I have personally experienced, but I can't see other readers being engaged with it.

The new stuff I add will replace fat with muscle. My main hurdle now will be keeping the final climax from being too trite.
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Old 05-21-2010, 10:58 AM   #14
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Do you guys generally save what you cut in a separate file? I usually do when I cut big chunks out, because you never know when you could use it (in an altered form of course) in the future for another book.
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Old 05-21-2010, 02:09 PM   #15
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The real question is this: have you ever ADDED a ton when editing?
Actually, I think I need to add about 15k to draft 2. .. I'm at 62 now, which is down from the 65 I had in november. But, I want to have 80 by the end of June. Which won't happen, especially with JuNo coming up.
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