Waiting for "The Call"

“Honey, it’s always crap. Every book I write is crap. It’s my job to fix the crap afterwards,” according to Nora Roberts. Well, I've got it half right. Still working on the "fixing it" part. "Trust your characters to be complex enough and to have enough emotional baggage. Force them to make hard choices." Advice from Michelle Styles that might help!

Word count blues November 16, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Autumn Macarthur @ 3:36 pm
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I’ve spent the weekend editing chapter two of Luk and Emma’s story.

Started with 11,657 words, two chapters in my mess of a first draft, that I needed to get down to 5,000, tops.

Sixteen hours of work later, I still have 6,458 words!

I don’t know where the hell the word count is coming from!

I cut a whole sequence that  had a couple of good lines in it,  but slowed the pacing, as the characters weren’t together. She was sending him sweet chatty emails telling him all she was doing, and he was  getting all distracted and hot and bothered, which is always a good thing. But it had to go.

I dropped the secondary character of Mari, the hero’s sister, as I have a cast of thousands and her role can be played by someone else.

Took out the makeover (this was only the semi-makeover anyway, the real Cinderella transformation comes  in the next chapter when he sees her at the ball, so I’d thought maybe I should ditch this one anyway, as it detracts from the later scene).

And I still have nearly 6,500 words.
It’s just that some of them are now different words.

Arrrrgghhhh! I’m having fun here, don’t get me wrong. But Cinderella can’t go to the ball ’til I get this word count fixed!

I turn to my article file for some  advice from published authors. Nora Roberts, Winnie Griggs, Julie Leto, Melissa James.

Worrying. I see a lot about all the stuff I know I still need to layer into the story, not about how to decide what to leave out.
I think the way Melissa James writes is closest to how I seem to do it. I guess I’m at her stage 4 now.

I cut tags and adverbs, and scenes or passages I might love but serve no purpose for the ultimate storyline. This is my ruthless draft. I cut it, hack at it—savage it, if you will. I look at my ms as an editor would: Does that passage make sense, or only to me? Uh duh, I’ve repeated myself here again! Cut that scene out! Take that paragraph out! Add something with real meaning, girl! In other words, I talk to myself like a fool all the time, trying NOT to be me, but someone who HATES my work, wants to tear it down and destroy it. I usually lose at least 25 pages this way, but when I’ve finished, the work is taut, tight, fast-paced and much, much stronger. Then I have more space to put in stuff with real meaning!

But what if I feel I’ve already done that and I still have too many words?  I need to go back and do it again.

Find the repetitions. Find the adjective/noun and adverb/verb combos that can be changed to a single stronger word. Find whole chunks that can be cut without damaging the story, no matter how much I like them.

What I’ve done so far was the easy part.

It’s rip and burn time, baby.

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5 Responses to “Word count blues”

  1. Eileen Says:

    I spent time doing this this past summer. When you’re asked to write an entire story in 550 words or less you get very vicious. Don’t just question “can this adjective/noun pair be replaced with a stronger word?’ question EVERY adjective. Do you need it? Do you need two adjectives? (probably not). Also consider using simpler phrasings. The way I got the most words back was by redoing my phrasings in a more direct manner than I used when I first drafted them.

    Writers often fall on crutches (every writer’s is different) like “very” “really” or “almost” — those ones are easier to see but some of the others are sneakier. I am overly enthusiastic to use the word “that” to try and generate clarity in the situation (though usually it’s not needed). Other words that like to sneak in are “even” or “even though” “occasionally” and “just” — I’m so guilty of my characters “just considering it” and “only just brushing against her” (srsly, what is “brushing” if not “only just touching” … sheesh, that’s two words right there!)

  2. waitingforthecall Says:

    LOL, Eileen, those are the words I’ve spent the afternoon tracking down and removing! “Just”, “actually”, “even”, “still” and lots of “that”. Now down to 6202 words. 1200 more to go! There’s something significant to the hero that he repeats to himself through the chapter. Three repetitions can go in the recycle bin. I’ll get there. Though I may need to leave off where I am by the end of today and move onto chapter three. More hack and burn can come once I’ve got right through second draft.

  3. waitingforthecall Says:

    Realised I have worked all day to eliminate just 600 words! But the story is better for it.

  4. Maisey Says:

    I still say take it as a whole this first round. Maybe the stuff in the first chapters are more important than some things in the middle? Focus on tightening up the MS as a whole, and then you can go worry about adverbs.

  5. waitingforthecall Says:

    But I write so adverbially!
    I feel satisfied now that I can move on. Time for chapter 3 – Cinderella can go to the ball.


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