Saturday, March 28, 2009

Cutting a Tenth of Your Novel

This will be a quick post. It's been two weeks since my last one (doesn't that sound like an AA line?), but I've just been editing, which isn't hugely exciting to hear about. :) The process is teaching me so much about writing well though, so I count it as time very well spent.

Anywho, we've already established that I'm something of a numbers freak, so I'll give you some more here. Numbers tell us nothing about the quality of a story, but it does show the quantity of things I've removed from the earlier draft because they were unneccessary or just plain bad writing.

This recent round of edits was the "I was ly-ing" edits. That is getting rid of excess pronouns, passive voice, adjective/adverbage, and present tense verbs. None of these are bad when used in the right places and in reasonable quantities, but let's face it... my first drafts of my first novel were bound to come out really rough. I hope that I can write cleaner in future novels to avoid some of this work.

Anyway, without further ado, the numbers.

Data displayed in a quantity before --> quantity after format. These cuts didn't remove content, only excess wordage.

I (pronoun) – 4146 --> 3377
Was (passive voice) – 1345 --> 610
Were (passive voice) – 442 --> 307
Ly (adjectives/adverbs) – 2150 --> 716
Ing (present tense verbs) – 4000 --> 3225
Word Count – 100K --> 89K

Amazing that a tenth of my novel was just unneccessary words.

Anyone else had that kind of experience?


Captain Hook said...

You have your definitions of words wrong.

Was/were is not always passive voice. In fact, 90% of the time it's not and people assume it is. That's not to say it's a good verb to use either. It's very weak, but to say it is passive voice only is quite incorrect.

-ly words are only adverbs, not adjectives.

-ing words are past and present participles, not present tense verbs.

Many of those are things that should be cut as often as possible, but you should know why you're cutting them.

Lady Glamis said...

I have had that experience with both novels so far. Doesn't it feel good? And kind of weary, too?

Sarah is the wise one up there. *looks up and smiles*

She's right, but you have done an awesome job of cutting. I am in the midst of doing this with Monarch right now. Good luck! Keep us posted on your progress. :)

RW said...

Anette--checking out your blog after your helpful comments at openquery. (Thanks again.) And I'm seeing similarities to my blog, including obsession with word counts and page counts. I also write there about using the search tool to hunt down certain kinds of unwanted syntax.

I just finished the draft that cut about 30 percent of the novel, so I'm a little behind you in the process. That last 10 person is my next draft.

BTW, have you heard of and seen word clouds? There are sites out there where you can generate your own using text you paste in, and they are catnip for obsessive word counters.

Anette J Kres said...

Thanks Hook :-) I didn't pay much attention to terms in school. I always figured as long as you knew how to use a word, it didn't matter if you knew what it was.

Glam - it's totally wearying, but it feels AWESOME

RW - always good to meet another number junkie. I have seen the word cloud sites, but my comp never lets me open them. :( sad days. Oh well, I'm off to visit your blog now!