I am currently working on tightening up one of my manuscripts, a challenging task to say the least but a very necessary one.
*Word count is vital in the publishing industry.
My editor, Pat Lobrutto, always impresses on me how PP&B (Printing, Paper, and Binding) costs affect decisions made at each level of the publishing process from submissions to acquisitions.
My current task is to chop about 20,000 words off my story. Yikes!
As a creator of a story, it is difficult to achieve objectivity in order to make those cuts effectively. After all, everything seems important in one’s own writing.
Here are some tips that I have found helpful:
- To distance yourself from the book for a time, a recommendation that came from my editor. Take a week or two and not read or work on the story. You’ll be surprised how differently you view your work after that time. You see mistakes you didn’t see before. You find sections that are too drawn out or redundant. It gives you emotional distance from it, allowing you to be more critical of your work.
- Take each sentence and tell yourself that for every word you eliminate from it, you’ll receive a dollar. It’s a shame one doesn’t actually get the money. I had read this tip a while back, but unfortunately, I can’t remember where, sadly not permitting me to give the originator credit for the helpful advice.
- Zoom in on your words to at least 200%, allowing you to focus your attention solely on that one sentence, thereby, not being distracted by any other words around it. Enlarging it makes the words clearer, giving you a better perspective of your work. I stumbled across the idea one day when I found myself being distracted with the sentences before and after the one, I was working on.
- I have two trusted books–a must for every reference library–called, The Dictionary of Concise Writing that gives you alternatives to wordy phrases, and The Dimwit’s Dictionary that gives you alternatives to overused words and phrases, both by Robert Hartwell Fiske. Redundancy phrases like, ‘for all practical purposes’ can be cut down to the word ‘essentially’, eliminating three words. Addressed are ineffectual phrases, metaphors, infantile phrases, clichés, redundancies, and so on, all which add wordiness to a story and when removed not only decrease word count and tighten up the writing but makes a better written story.
Despite my best attempt with all these good tips at my disposal, I’m sure to need help in the end and that is where my talented editor comes in, thankfully!