Your manuscript is big-boned. Over the years, it has picked up a few extra words here and there. But that shouldn’t be a problem. Publishers should just accept your manuscript as it is, right? Who are they to judge? All of those skinny manuscripts are airbrushed anyway.
Besides, Stephen King (not that you’re SK) has written a bloated book or two—or three—and no one minds. Yegads, he even re-released an already huge popular book (The Stand) with hundreds of words his editors originally cut put back in—so there you red-penned devils! Snap!
Let’s get serious. Your book is likely overweight and if it doesn’t lower its word count it won’t be able to compete. I don’t care if it’s a novella, it still needs to sign up for Word Watchers and get trim. Because, like Weight Watchers, Word Watchers works!
Word Watchers has developed four key principles that can help you self-edit that extra verbiage from your manuscript. These are borrowed from Weight Watchers directly, but adapted for writers.
Healthy word loss
Q. What’s healthy when it comes to word loss?
A. As trim as possible without sacrificing artistry or voice. I think of it this way in my writing: If a word can be deleted, it gets deleted.
Be religious about cutting the fat. Scour your writing for throat clearing tactics such as:
- Introductory phrases: “The point I’m trying to make is...” Just state the point.
- “Josh estimated that they’d arrive in Minneapolis by roughly 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon.” (14 words)
- “Josh estimated they’d arrive in Minneapolis by 4:00 p.m.” (9 words)
- “Sarah knew that at her place of employment Jason was knee-deep in advance planning for the next year’s fundraising campaign.” (20 words)
- “Sarah knew her co-worker Jason was knee-deep in planning next year’s fundraiser.” (12 words)
Fits into your life
Second, any Word Watchers approach must be realistic, practical, and livable. That means encouraging realistic goals. You are not likely to become Jerry B. Jenkins (the tightest writer I know) or Ernest Hemingway (renown for being succinct) straight out of the gate.
But you can set goals that will, over time, help you reach your ultimate success. Here are a few simple tricks to help you get started:
- That: In almost every case, this word can be eliminated. Tip: Read the sentence out loud without the that. If it still makes sense, it’s gone!
- Adverbs: Scorn them. “Adverbs are the tool of the lazy writer.” —Mark Twain For more on this go to the Write Tight Site HERE!
- $$$: Pretend you are being charged a quarter for each word you use. It seems silly, but if you take it seriously, you’ll start competing with yourself to see how little you can pay for a chapter.
At Word Watchers, writers learn not only what to do, but why. If you know why, you gain the confidence to make the right choices for your writing and live by them. Here are some of the best sites I often cite:
Of course, there are many other such sites and places you can go to learn about the craft of tight writing. I highly recommend ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) as a place to get grounded not only in the craft of writing, but in the career of writing as well.
A holistic view
Finally, the Word Watchers approach must be comprehensive. Sustained word loss comes not only from learning what we’ve talked about today, but from practicing it as well. One of the best ways to practice learning to write tight is in a writer’s critique or support group—like you have here at Seekerville!
I know some of these ladies and they will, kindly and in love, kick your writing butt until you’re in shape. They’ll remind you of what you’ve learned (and of how often you’ve had to learn it). They will hold you down and sit on you until you’ve eliminated every extra word in your manuscript—and will expect you to do the same to them. With chocolate.
And if you’re a real writer—or you want to be—you’ll smile and say “Thank you, Ruthy! Can I have another?” because you know what’s good for you.
Is there a prize today? You betcha! I'm giving away two (2) free contest preparation packages. I will look at your first 15 pages (double-spaced, standard manuscript format pages) and a one-page synopsis. I will edit your submission the same way I do for my In The Edit posts on my website . I'll also look for holes in your synop and offer suggestions. Just leave a comment for the chance to win.