• strict warning: Declaration of FeedsImporter::copy() should be compatible with FeedsConfigurable::copy(FeedsConfigurable $configurable) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/includes/FeedsImporter.inc on line 94.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsNodeProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsNodeProcessor.inc on line 319.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsNodeProcessor::setTargetElement() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::setTargetElement(&$target_item, $target_element, $value) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsNodeProcessor.inc on line 319.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsFeedNodeProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsFeedNodeProcessor.inc on line 227.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsFeedNodeProcessor::setTargetElement() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::setTargetElement(&$target_item, $target_element, $value) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsFeedNodeProcessor.inc on line 227.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsUserProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsUserProcessor.inc on line 195.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • You must include at least one positive keyword with 3 characters or more.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_display::options_validate() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_validate(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_display.inc on line 1877.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_display_block::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin_display::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_display_block.inc on line 193.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_field_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_field.inc on line 641.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_sort_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_sort.inc on line 82.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_validate() should be compatible with views_handler::options_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 585.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_submit() should be compatible with views_handler::options_submit($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 585.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 609.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_boolean_operator::value_validate() should be compatible with views_handler_filter::value_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter_boolean_operator.inc on line 128.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_style_default::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_style_default.inc on line 25.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_validate() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_validate(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 135.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 135.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of content_handler_field::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/cck/includes/views/handlers/content_handler_field.inc on line 208.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument::init() should be compatible with views_handler::init(&$view, $options) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 745.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 770.

Losing the Word Weight — How to Put Your Manuscript on a Diet

Photo by Lisaclarke
When I finished my manuscript for my second novel, it clocked in at 160,000 words.
Pretty impressive, huh?  Double the word count of my first novel.  A little long, maybe, but hey, J.K. Rowling has a few novels out that approach the 200,000 mark.  And it had taken me several years to string them all together, so those words were GOLD, baby.
Okay.  Maybe not.
Somewhere on my writing journey, I’d read that when you think you’ve finished, cut 10 percent of your manuscript to make it sing.  I cut 20,000 words, bringing it down to a barely-there 140,000, then sent it off to my agent.
Who was not as delighted as I’d hoped he’d be.
The characters were compelling, he explained, but all those words slowed down the pace.  Perhaps I should consider cutting a few more words.
Like, 40,000.
Ouch.
After a few nights of chocolate and wine, I realized he was right.  With all those words, my characters were suffocating.  They needed room to move, and the reader needed space to envision them.  So I did the big rewrite first.
And I looked at the story with fresh eyes.
And I got down to 120,000 words.  A good, solid story.  But still too long.  Not because of some arbitrary word count, but because when I reread it, I still felt as if the pacing could be tighter, the tension higher.  A trusted beta reader agreed.
So I put my manuscript on a diet. These are the steps I followed to lose the word weight:
*I sought inspiration. 
I reread several of my favorite tightly-strung works, ranging from novels by Lee Child to short stories by Amy Bloom to poetry by Billy Collins.  I try to pick apart how they make every word serve multiple functions.
*I used the search function to find words that end in ly. If they were adverbs, I killed them without mercy. (Mostly.)
*I did another scan for adjectives, paring them down to the absolute essentials.
*I looked at all my dialogue tags and made it a game to see how many I could eliminate before the reader lost track of who was speaking.
*I divided my manuscript into three sections.  Every week, I worked on one section, randomly opening to a page in that section and making sure it was as tight and polished as possible.
These efforts got me to about 108,000 words of solid writing.   My characters were true, my pacing faster, my plot tighter.  But I still felt the story could be improved, and I’d looked at it so many times I’d run out of ways to keep my eyes fresh.
The next step?
I hired an editor.
More on that in my next WU blog post.
In the meantime, what are some of your secrets for cutting a bloated manuscript down to size? (I really want to know!)

Wish you could buy this author a cup of joe?

Now, thanks to tinyCoffee and PayPal, you can!

About Liz MichalskiLiz Michalski's first novel, Evenfall, was published by Berkley Books (Penguin). Liz has been a reporter, an editor, and a freelance writer. In her previous life, she wrangled with ill-tempered horses and oversized show dogs. These days she's downsized to one husband, two children and a medium-sized mutt.Web | Facebook | More Posts

"There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are."
W. Somerset Maugham

Random picks

  • There as many reasons to create a blog. Some blog to boost motivation, others to entice business growth. No experience of any kind is required. All you really need is some common sense, the ability to read and follow directions, and a willingness to keep on keeping on with it.
  • An interview with author Fran Meadows. Fran gives us honest, heartfelt answers to questions about herself and her book, The Truth Behind The Secret "Infertility" A Personal Diary of my Journey to Motherhood. Thank You, Fran for sharing so much of yourself.
  • I’ve posted a new comic for writers on Writer Unboxed.
  • Essay writing is not an easy task, but following certain steps would help make it easier for you. You need to make sure that you custom essay is well-researched, informative and interesting at the same time. Citing resources is a necessity as well.
  • Will the increase in Kindle book prices stir up the wrath of the sleeping consumer giant? What’s that? Early adopters just do what they’re told…? Oh right. Idiots. Excuse me, I have to go check my Buzz feed… The LAT writes a funny opinion piece on the war of the price buttons from the authors’ POV The British Library’s ambitious program to lend ebooks might breathe some new life into old gems (now THAT’s a mixed metaphor) Ingram digithisandthat with the whosiewhatsit on the e-functionality paradigmigimmigem The Pac Man bookshelf… coming soon to...

Recommended sites

Most recent titles

Fast fact about writing

Writers not writing for a living often find enjoyment and small payouts from Web sites seeking material to raise their sites higher in the search engine rankings. Although this is a legitimate practice, the writing being published on the Web can often be less than professional. This lack of professionalism distorts the line between qualified and amateur writers. Writing standards are often not the highest priority as Web sites seek to drive traffic to gain advertising exposure. It seems as if readers are not as concerned about the writing quality, as long as they find a relevant account on a particular topic.