Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Writer's Wednesday: The Revision Process of Cutting

I'm in the middle of my third revision on my manuscript and it's a pretty heavy overhaul ... changing up a significant portion of the second half and adding in several new scenes.

But I also need to cut scenes for balance. And that's where it gets tricky. See, I'm not one of those authors who has a first draft of 120,000 words and they can cut at will, hitting the delete key with abandon and saving them as "teasers" or "deleted scenes" for their blog. No, I'm lucky if I hit 65,000 words, and then I'm forced to bulk up. Adding scenes is great. Deleting? Not so much.

So, here's what I'm doing...

I'm starting small. In my edits yesterday I attacked a scene that may need to go altogether, but I'm just not ready to do it yet. It helps build the romance, shows off some world-building, etc. I can probably incorporate most of that elsewhere, but for now, it's staying in ... well at least half of it. I was able to delete a good chunk of it.

It's like the cutting room floor of a movie studio. The scene is complete, but at the moment it's a heck of a lot smaller. I took out words, sentences, even paragraphs to get to the point faster ... and then get out.

Maybe next time I'll cut it in half again!

Do you have problems with cutting in your manuscript? What are your tips for deleting scenes?


  1. I have similar issues with cutting, I'm not a bulky writer so cutting out entire scenes is painful for me. What I've started doing on my current WIP is pulling out the entire scene and saving it in another Word Doc. Then I look for other places where I need to incorporate stuff back in (like world building or hat tips to character traits), and I see if I can work those back into other scenes. What I've found most of the time is that if it's out of the story long enough (but not deleted!) I eventually realize I didn't need it and delete the Word doc. I never thought about deleted scenes on the blog, though...interesting.

  2. My manuscripts are also slender creatures. The last revision I turned in didn't hit the 80K word mark. I save and date my manuscripts, titling them with the significant changes so I can find things again when I need them--but I like the idea of saving entire scenes as complete documents, especially if I'm attached to them--will have to try that!

  3. THANK YOU. I never understand overwriters - how do you have so much to say?

    Thanks to NaNoWriMo I could barely make it over 50,000 lol. I've written a veritable opus at 64,000, which will probably go down as I keep revising (I LOVE cutting).

    Outside input might be helpful at this point if you need someone else to do the slash and burn ;)

  4. When I was editing, revising, and polishing my superlong Russian historical saga this spring, after not having seen it for almost 10 years (it was held hostage on obsolete file formats on disks), most of what I cut was from the original sections of the first six chapters, written when I was only thirteen. I took out over 20,000 words, but ended up putting a lot of new material in, esp. in the first six chapters. It was around 342,000 words when I pulled if off of MacWriteII and ClarisWorks, and now it's a happy, perfect length of 348,000. It was deliberately planned and plotted to be very long, as is the sequel in progress. (I have another book that's around 390,000 words, roughly the length of The Brothers Karamazov, a contemporary historical fiction saga. I grew up reading supersized books, so writing them comes naturally to me. My preteen and YA books are a lot shorter, though!)

    Basically I just cut out out cluttery chat and pointless scenes that served no purpose, seemed silly and out of place in a historical novel and the Russian setting, and which were part of the original, very embarrassing plot direction. Since those bits were no longer consistent with the plot and characters as they emerged during my second major writing phase, I took them out or almost completely rewrote them. I don't believe in adding or subtracting substantial amounts of words for no other reason than to drive word count up or down. Extra words should be added or subtracted if it makes the book better. A book should merely be as long or short as the story is meant to be, even if that means being considered "too long" by modern standards.


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