Cutting characters and word counts

Recently I’ve been working on my shelved first novel Goodbye December. I wrote it more than 10 years ago and in hindsight I can say that I queried it much too soon. It was not ready

I still like the core of the story though. So much so that I am trying to rework it. It was originally intended to be a woman’s fiction piece, but I’m trying to turn it into a dark new adult story.

This will mean shaving a good 10 to 15,000 words off of the manuscript. That’s okay though. In a way I’m kind of glad that I put that book away such a long time ago. Back then I was way too inexperienced and I didn’t know for example when to cut scenes or characters. There is one character in particular in this story whom I loved writing but who doesn’t actually move the novel forward in any significant way. To be honest, I knew in my gut even as I wrote him that this was the case, but I was emotionally attached to the character. It’s only after writing my second novel and writing first and second drafts for a couple of other projects that I’ve learned sometimes, even if it hurts, cuts have to be made. If the character doesn’t give to the story or doesn’t move the plot forward they just have to go.The same is true for scenes.

Another thing I noticed when rereading Goodbye December was that I had a really bad habit off writing too much. I still have a tendency to not want to finish writing the novel. After creating a world for these characters I sometimes find myself not wanting to leave. That is as true now as it was then, but the difference is that I can recognize when it’s time to take your hands off the keyboard and be finished with the story now. Back then I just kind of rambled on.

There are several scenes that can be trimmed or completely cut without it having an impact on the book. I have to say I am grateful to have that distance now to look at the Goodbye December manuscript and see it for what it is, and be able to spot the work I need to do to make it the best it can be.

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2 thoughts on “Cutting characters and word counts

  1. I had a similar episode recently where I cut about 20,000 words out of a manuscript. It’s still too long, but waaaaay better than it was with all that dead weight. Killing my darlings left and right. šŸ™‚

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