Assassins of Ghadid, helpful tips, TIC, writing

How to cut 20,000 Words

First – and this is the most important step – write a novel that is 35,000 words too long.

Be told by several people that you really ought to cut some of that. Agonize over every word for a month and manage to cut 15,000 words. Rejoice!

Realize that the novel is still 20,000 words too long. Decide it will be a problem for future you.

Let the novel sit for two years.

Revisit, because finally you really need to trim that beast down. You ask your betas to point out places that should be cut, places where the plot dragged or they got bored. Your editor highlights entire chapters. Realize that those two years actually made it easier for you to see what you can cut. Notice a few patterns:

– You over describe everything.
– You over describe everything.
– You really like to talk about sand.
– You over describe everything.

Begin cutting a word here and there. Then a paragraph. Now, drunk on power, start cutting entire pages. Cackle maniacally. Stay up too late. Drink too much coffee.

Convinced you’ve cut at least 10,000 words, doublecheck your word count.

You’ve only cut 300 words.

Yell into the void that is Twitter. Pour another cup of tea. Start again with a word here, a word there. Repeat.

Repeat.

Repeat.

Congrats! You’ve cut 10,000 words. You still need to trim another 5-10k. You wonder if your editor will notice. You know she will.

Decide it will be a problem for future you.

helpful tips, ITSW, writing

On Wordcounts and Madness

You know those little aha! moments when a problem you’ve been struggling with suddenly becomes clear? And then you can’t understand why it was such a problem originally?

I received a passing comment on my writing while I was querying TIC that at first frustrated me. I’d mentioned my word count to another writing friend – 130k – and she’d responded with concern.

Isn’t that a bit… high?

What? No – if anything it could be longer. But her comment wiggled in my mind, refusing to leave. I had done my due-diligence and researched word count ranges… once or twice. Back in the day. I recalled that 130k was acceptable. Just look that those fantasy tomes bricking the shelves. Besides, my novel couldn’t be too long. My writing style was to add layers and layers upon the thin skeleton of a first draft – rewriting, tweaking, fleshing out, never concerned about too much.

I googled what the acceptable ranges were not so much to prove her wrong, but to make myself feel better (never a good sign). The results were consistent: again and again and again, 120k was quoted at the limit, and 130k was right out.

There are exceptions, of course. Life wouldn’t be interesting without exceptions. Did I consider TIC an exception? …for a while, yes. (Palm, meet forehead.)

Then another passing comment popped my bubble. My writing was overburdened, said the email. I failed to parse this, handed my first ten pages to my wife, and said: can you show me how this is overburdened?

And my wife, with her phd and her years of tight, frivolous scientific writing honed by the unmerciful hand of her PI, easily removed 200 words. When I reread those pages, nothing was missing. I understood.

We writers get caught up in our words and our worlds. We can see the room our MC is standing in and we’re convinced that the reader must also see it as we do – down to the color of the curtains. Fantasy writers especially are prone to over description. But are those curtains important? Unless the MC’s planning to rip them off the rod and make a dress out of them, no.

I had a moment of complete and absolute DUH. And then I got to work.

Everywhere I saw a word or a phrase or a sentence that wasn’t absolutely necessary. It might help set the mood – but so did the sentence before it. Or it might explain more about the world – but was that necessary to the plot? I asked each word if it served the story and if it didn’t – chop, chop.

From cutting mostly words and phrases (and rephrasing so it’s tighter), I’m down 7k. I didn’t think it would be possible. Now, it’s a game. How much can I cut on this page?

5k words to go!

ITSW, whimsical, WIP, writing

WIP Check-In: The Final Draft and Final Countdown, Day 1

I have a week left until my wholly self-imposed deadline of April 1st to finish this final draft of my WIP. I’m a month late already and April Fool’s Day just seems to be an appropriate time to send this beast to my beta readers.

There is an awful lot of restructuring and rewriting to do in these final days and pages, so to keep myself motivated and accountable, I’m going to check in here and update my progress.

Is the final draft done yet?: NO

Current page count: 177/206

Shots of whiskey: 1

Current problems with the manuscript: too much suspicion, not enough relief and surprise.

 

Other things unrelated to said final draft:

I’m officially doing a second “season” of the Cactopodes tumblr, rather conveniently starting April 2nd. What started as a place to deposit photos of local cacti, namely saguaros, which are all quite individual in nature, quickly devolved into a lovecraftian nightmare about four wayward scientists who got lost in the stygian wasteland of the Sonoran desert.

It’s really quite silly and more of an excuse to be ridiculous – and it is a perfect project to work on once I get this final draft done and out the door. I want to keep writing – it’s never good to take a long break, at least not for me – but I also don’t want to start a new story when I’m trying to query this one. I’ve learned I can’t query and write something entirely new at the same time – it just doesn’t work.

So instead, I’m going to go with nameless, octopoid horrors.

Ginger Witch, ITSW, querying, WIP, writing

WIP Updates

I finished the edits on GW last night and duly celebrated with a glass of wine. God, I love wine. GW was the story that was out to betas over the summer, and I received their feedback in August. It’s a(n urban?) fantasy with faeries and gingerbread and a bus driving MC who is the epitome of a reluctant heroine. It’s a story I’ve been trying to write right since college.

I completely rehauled the plot in the spring after some really good advice from a friend, but I was too close to the story still when I sent it out to betas to really gauge whether I’d succeeded. So I spent a lot of time while waiting for feedback figuratively biting my nails. I also busied myself with another WIP. Always a good idea, by the way.

The first feedback I got wasn’t so good. But it was true. And it took me some time to figure out how to make it work. Then I got more feedback and I realized this was going to work. And it wouldn’t require a major overhaul! Which is fantastic, because that wasn’t going to happen. If it’d needed major reworking, I would have simply shoved GW into a dark corner and forgotten about it.

I spent the majority of September working on those edits inspired by my betas’ feedback, both big and small. And I finished the last edit yesterday with some small satisfaction. This story works. It’s not perfect – it will never be perfect – and fuck if I know whether or not it’s marketable, but it works.

Writing is such a long, arduous, lonely process. There aren’t many clean breaks between processes, and certainly little to no clear stopping points. So I’ll take what I can get. This story is Done, with a capital D.

Now, the hard part. Writing a synopsis. Writing a query. Researching agents. Plugging away with queries day after day. I hate this part because it takes away from the time I could be writing, from the time I could be creating, but it’s a necessary evil. Nothing you love is ever going to be sparkles and unicorns 100% of the time. Besides, only a successful query and agentation will allow me to have more time for writing in the future.

October will be my official Querying Month. Then when that’s done and over, I can finally start rewriting the epic lesbian desert story from this summer. That should get me through the end of this year.

TL;DR: Edits done! October = querying. November/December = rewrite new WIP. January = ???, February = Profit!