Sunday, August 3, 2014

Dreaded Word Count

I’ve been attempting to bring the word count of my novel as close to 100,000 words as possible. Given the books I like to read that seems short. So far I’ve been successful in eliminating over 20,000 words.

I read an article on Writers Digest ( that explained why it’s easier to market a first-time novelist’s book if it’s between 80,000 and 100,000 words. Of course, there’s always exceptions, but why chance my book being rejected because it’s too long?

I don’t worry about word count when I write my initial draft. I need to get the story out, then wordsmith. I find that it takes two different mind sets to write and to edit.

In radio you only have a certain amount of time to read a news story, so it’s important to do so in as few words as possible without missing any important information. I guess over 10 years writing news was good practice for cutting words out of my novel.

Before sacrificing a chunk of story that you think is important to your plot (of course if it doesn’t contribute, dump it), try looking for places to tighten up your phrasing.

Check for words that don’t contribute to your sentences. Eliminating one or two words from several sentences adds up. Of course, it depends on the context and feel you’re striving for.

     She wasn’t going to hang around any longer than she had to.
     She wasn’t staying longer than she had to.

Avoid using several words when one will do. Sometimes it’s necessary to create a certain feel for the scene, but watch for places where it’s not.

     She wasn’t staying longer than she had to.
     She wasn’t staying longer than necessary.

Check for redundant modifiers.

     He was bare naked when he emerged from the room.
     He was naked when he emerged from the room.

     She was completely finished with him.
     She was finished with him.

Sometimes when I’m in the throws of writing, I state a similar idea several times within a few pages. Too much repetition will annoy the reader and doesn’t usually contribute to the story. When I go back to edit, I find and delete the repetition, unless it’s needed – sometimes you have to drive a point home.

These were a few examples of simple ways to cut some words before chopping scenes. Sometimes just rewording a sentence will help you lose some words, other times you need to get rid of that sentence.

Here are some sites that may help in your editing (I’m not promoting any of the services the sites may be selling because I haven’t used any of them). – has several good articles.

I’m sure there are lots of articles out there. If anyone knows any good ones, feel free to post them along with any editing tips you have.

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