Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cut Those Words! It Won't Hurt Them A Bit

This morning, a member of my online writer's group posted a resub of a piece she'd subbed awhile back. She'd written it for a competition and when she finished the first draft, it was way too long. When contest guidelines give a word count maximum, they aren't kidding. They mean it. Go over the limit and you risk your entry being trashed before it's even read.

She went back to work. She cut 600 words from the first draft and she's still 69 words too high. That's why she resubbed the piece. Maybe some of those who critique her work will be able to cut those 69 words. I'm planning to crit it and will look at it as a challenge to slice away those extra words.

I've found that, when I edit something I've written and do some major cutting, I generally end up with a stronger story. Write tight! That's writing advice most all writers have heard or read at some time in their career.Trust me. It's to the writer's benefit to do so. We needn't fret about losing some of those precious words we've written.

How do you manage to cut a whole lot of words when writing to a specific word count? There are a few ways to accomplish the task.

1.  Keep the word count in mind as you write the first draft. You won't hit the magic number by doing this but you'll know when you start going way over the limit.

2.  Go through the first draft and look for repetition. I've mentioned many times that the writer does not need to keep repeating information. Give it to the reader once and respect the fact that they'll 'get it' then. Some of us have this need to say something two or three times so we're sure the reader understands. Say it once but say it well!

3.  Cut adjectives and adverbs. Yes, you do want to make use of them to add to the bare bones of a sentence but you needn't overdo it. Too many adjectives make for flowery prose that can overwhelm the reader.

4.  Ask yourself if every paragraph is important to the story/article/essay. Is there too much information? Does everything you've written cycle back to the main idea of your piece. If it veers off in any way, cut it!

5. A very easy way to cut some words is to revise the order of a sentence. Look at a particularly long sentence and ask yourself if there is another way to say the same thing? Usually, there is.

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