Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Using The Delete Button in Editing *sigh*

Photo by Stuart Miles
A precious friend asked me to read through her manuscript and see where I could delete words. She is an excellent writer...I mean she is really good and will be published one day...but her manuscript ended up at a little over 200,000 words. She needed it whittled down to 100,000 - 120,000 words. So basically, I needed to delete close to half her manuscript.

How does one even do that?

I've critiqued other's manuscripts before, but I've never deleted large passages. And that made me a bit nervous! What I needed was a plan. So here is what I decided to do:

  1. Cut unnecessary description. Sometimes you can describe a room or scene with just a sentence or two, instead of a paragraph or more. 
  2. Cut unnecessary dialogue. As with description, sometimes less is more. Sometimes a longer conversation can be trimmed by deleting a sentence or two. You can still get your point across without the lengthy conversation. 
  3. Cut scenes that do not move the story along. This turned out to be difficult for me, because every once in awhile I would delete something only to find out that it was crucial to the story line. If I wasn't absolutely sure, I would write down the scene and page number on a pad of paper for future reference. (You could also mark the manuscript with some asterisks ***, then search the manuscript later in order to delete.)
  4. Cut story threads that aren't crucial to the story's big finale. After reading through the whole manuscript, I could look back and see that the ending could come alot quicker in the story. I was able to delete several chapters and end the story with the original ending still intact. 
I have to say that I was not successful in deleting enough words to get the manuscript down to where it needed to be, but I was able to cut it down to 142,000 words. It was not easy and I know that my friend will most likely not like everything I did. But that is the beauty of Track Changes in Word...you can reject any changes! Whew! 

So tell me, what is the hardest edit you have ever done? Or what tricks do you use when you edit? Do you ever edit other people's work? 

This post is brought to you by
 Sherrinda Ketchersid

Sherrinda is wife to "Pastor John" and mother to three giant sons and one gorgeous daughter. A born and bred Texan, she writes historical romance filled with fun, faith, and forever love.


Beth K. Vogt said...

Yes, I edit other people's works.
My nickname, after all, is The Evil Editor. "TEE."
But I'm told that nickname is said affectionately.
Bwahahahaha ...
The hardest edit I've ever done?
It's anytime I edit someone else's writing.
The biggest challenge? To not mangle another writer's voice. I did that one time, unintentionally, and I feel still feel awful about that years later. But I learned a valuable lesson: DON'T DO IT.
For me, editing means to help another writer look their best, sound their best -- while sounding like them, not me.

Tessa Emily Hall said...

The YA novel I'm working in now has almost hit 80,000 words, and I still have about 10,000 more to go. Way too long for a contemporary YA novel. I know I'll be having to delete a few scenes. It's painful to have to so so, but I know it'll only improve my story in the end. Thanks for sharing these tips!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Beth, how did I not know that you were The Evil Editor??? I just cannot fathom that AT ALL! :)

My dad is an editor and he has said the same thing about the author's voice. Once he edited a famous author's book and watched some of her Bible study videos to be able to capture her voice. (and she has a very unique voice!)

Fortunately, I was just deleting and not adding any words...so her voice is all hers!!!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Tessa, is it terrible that I don't even know how long a YA book is supposed to be? I'm guessing under 80,000? ;) At least you aren't having to ADD words...that might be a little more tricky.

p.s. I love your name!

Mary Vee Writer said...

By participating in crit groups I am learning different styles of critting. The ones I like the best are done in question format. "Is this really needed? Can this be said another way? Consider adding ______. " and etc. These critters show me my error but let me fix the problem and keep my voice. This is the style I would like to use and am trying to perfect as a critter.

Pepper said...

Beth is an AWESOME editor!!
So encouraging and kind.

And I love editing!..er..OTHER people's stuff.
The hardest edits for me are usually my own. I'm either too close to the story to see the problems, think I should chock the whole thing, or weep has the ink-filled scalpel cuts out unnecessary verbage..... :-)

Joanne Sher said...

Editing MYSELF is definitely harder than anything else. And I enjoy editing others' stuff - and I've been told I'm not bad at it :) Great post!

Julia M. Reffner said...

I have a CP whose book is over 200K...my problem is usually needing to add words. My first round of editing including killing 15K of them...not because there were too many but simply because they were awful :)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

I enjoy editing other writer's work. For me, it's hardest when I'm having to delete (small or large portions). I'd much rather help move things around or suggest to add words. But sometimes a story ends up being better if certain parts are a little bit more...brief :)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Mary, I love what you've learned from critiquing and I think that is an excellent way of doing it! I'm sure you are an excellent editor.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Pepper, so you've experienced Beth's alter ego, the Evil Editor? I knew she couldn't be that evil!!!!

I think it is harder for everyone to edit their own stories, even if they think it's not. You are too close to your own story to see the flaws.

And you with unnecessary verbage???? Perish the thought!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Joanne, you should definitely check into editing as a side job! I hear it is way more lucrative than writing. ;)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Julia, oh dear...I've had to delete because of awfulness too! I'm with you on need to add more words. Sometimes it is just hard to make the story longer. We shall learn eventually, right?

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Cindy, oh girl, we are just the opposite. Sometimes I just can't SEE how the story could be better by adding...it is way easier just to delete. :)

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Sherrinda,

Thanks for the tips! I'm in the process of editing two of my manuscripts and have to delete about 8,000 in one and about 5,000 in another. I thought this was a lot, but compared to your example, it's nothing! I can't imagine having to chop 100,000 words! Not for the faint of heart. Maybe the book could have been split into two separate stories. If a subplot was cut to make its own book, that could work.

Anyways! Thanks, I shall use these tips as I CHOP, CHOP!