As I go on with further edit passes, some self-done, some based on feedback, I try to not just edit but also observe how my edits change and how I see some things compared to the past.
Learning from others
Reading posts of fellow blogging writers nudged me to do some things I’d eventually see in later stages of beta drafts – cleaning up article use, removing unnecessary adverbs (this knocked down the word count by hundreds, not joking), working on sentence structure (my sentences were often overloaded or far too complicated) or removing any other kind of fluff.
On the way, I also try to adjust my writing based on the other repeated tips: using more active voice or trying to understand and apply what people call ‘deep PoV’ or ‘show, don’t tell’. It’s still trial and error combined with observation but I believe I see some progress which, in turn, leads to trying more.
My first draft was at some 233k words. Peak was at 245k words. I was slowly removing stuff in the following drafts but I also added some others. I believe the total count of what I wrote would be somewhere in 260-270k range counting ‘unique’ scenes – so not counting rewrites that did not affect the story.
I’ve once read that one should cut some 10%. Back then, the idea of cutting 25k words seemed insane and impossible. Last month, I was down to 208k. As of writing this, I am down to 185k. I believe I’ve said it in past that there were multiple scenes that I cut because they did not fulfill my expectations. Eventually, I massively shortened the beginning, removed several other parts (even half-chapters) and used the good parts elsewhere, removed several not-really-contributing 3-paragraph scenes, cleaned up dialogue and whatnot.
I know I’m probably not done yet. Still, as of this moment, I’ve cut way more I imagined merely half a year ago.
There are two extremes: not using them unless really necessary and using them everywhere. When I started, I was the second case. Over time, as I read more books, I gained more understanding. Cutting unnecessary dialogue tags and cleaning them up elsewhere is one of those barely-seen reasons the word count is still dropping steadily. It’ll still need some attention, especially when it comes to what some call ‘powerful words’ – cases like ‘shouted’ over ‘said loudly’ as a mockup example (can’t remember anything specific from my drafts right now).
I finally did another full self-read on my Kindle, where I see more than on a computer screen. I still found a few cases where I said something twice (even though slightly differently) in a short succession. I’ve fixed some of those parts though I doubt I’ve found all of them – sometimes, it feels like I never will.
If there’s something I’ve found to be troublesome, it’s the cases where I reworked a part of the chapter. Those ‘seams’, where the old and the new contact, are troublesome points where I did some double-checking on continuity, repetition, and text flow. Sometimes, chapters did not flow one into another as well as I thought because I removed a large section (or a whole chapter) but the edits I made in the adjacent passages were ‘a few quick stitches’ instead of precise work – something I worked on fixing now.
And much more…
I think there are many more cases of which I’d not remember some unless I’d get to the situation again. I’ve found that even talking with someone writing in a completely different genre can be helpful more than I thought. Anyway, I’ll wrap it up here for today.
As usual, comments are welcome. If you have some interesting experience from your learning curve, feel free to share.
Editing is an on going learning process. Even though I cut lots during revisions, my novels tend to grow because I need to build settings and show over tell. Strange?!
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I don’t think it’s strange. After all, don’t writers get more ideas with time? Backstories, ways to expand on some details… Sometimes hard to control them.
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