Sunday, April 03, 2016

Below 95,000 Words (more than once) (AKA the quickest way to slash a stubborn word count)

(Okay, maybe the quickest way to slash the word count is: Boring scene? SEVER IT!)

I've pared down to the mid 90,000s. In the first two drafts, part 4 (the end) got minimal & rushed tending, so it still has several not-yet-written scenes. This time, I wanted to get to part 4 before I lost all my steam, so I've skipped ahead to add those missing scenes. In other words, whatever word loss I've managed now gets reversed.

Getting back up near 100,000 freaks me out, so in between adding scenes, I'll go find an easy hit to pare down. There's still a lot of story I know I need to cut from parts 2 and 3, but I want to finish part 4 before I go anywhere else scene-by-scene.

So here's my favorite way to cut a lot of words in not a lot of time. I use Scrivener, but any word processor with a search feature will work: Search for a word you overuse. (Looked, turned, and reached are common and, good news, they're often unnecessary because they're implied: the narrator can't describe something if the character hasn't looked at it. I personally overuse smiled, frowned, and seemed.) Go through each search result, and see if you can cut the overused word/phrase. If not, that's okay. If so, yay!

Doesn't sound like it'd make much of a difference, but it has for me. When I revise scene by scene, I'm caught up in the story, and feel more protective of my dear words. But when I see only snippets, I notice the prose more objectively. I realize just how many times characters turn, look, smile, grunt, emerge, etc. EXTERMINATE! Sometimes "She turned and walked away" can be "She walked away." SLASH! Sometimes (surprise!) I don't need the sentence at all, because walking away doesn't matter to the scene. SEVER! Huge bonus: in my snippet-browsing, I notice a lot of nearby extras: Ex. The conversation she's walking away from has two or three lines that slow the dialogue, something I didn't realize/admit in my scene-by-scene editing. Or this scene where he smiles three times is pretty much a repeat of that other scene with all the smiles. CUT! (The trick is to not read everything, just focus on the target word, and notice easy hits nearby.)

With my most overused words, I can get a 1,000 word difference after one search.

Tip: In Scrivener, instead of the search box at the top I use the Find & Replace, because it has a "next" button. So instead of scrolling to find the next instance, you can just click straight to it.

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