About time I asked a writery question here, for I am still a babe in the woods of that world.

After going through the process of writing my first (trunk) novel, I ended up cutting about 15K words from the rough total of 75K when I did my second draft. I realised there was a whole subplot that really had nothing to do with the story and after cutting it, I had a far shorter novel on my hands, shorter than I'd hoped for. In the end, it wasn't strong enough to go through the hassle of saving, but I learned a lot about my working habits.

This time round, I can see things following the same course. I'm at the 65K mark, heading to a rough of 75K again, but I feel there are sections that don't contribute to the story and will probably get cut. There are other, more interesting and relevant subplots that I've detailed in my notes that I think will make the work stronger once I get round to the second or third draft.

It's kind of depressing to think that all that work ends up being wasted, but I can't see myself solving the problem in the future by advance plotting or outlining. I just know I'll ditch sections that don't work and substitute new ones that fit.

I remember reading an interview with Jennifer Weiner where she said she only uses about half the first draft, so I'm glad that I'm not cutting quite that much, but it's still painful.

Anyone else care to share their pain? How do you Real McCoy writers do it, year in, year out? I know there's no secret, it's just arse-in-chair, but please do share anyway. Inquiring minds and all that jazz.

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I start the morning out with yesterday's writing. I edit, and generally addboth dialogue, and description. Of course, if something comes out bulky or meaningless, I delete. But, it almost always tends to be larger.

In my early years in journalism, the editor always stood over my shoulder with the dreaded red ink---now, in my fictional years,I clean as I go, then back the next morning where I tend to find the seams that need straightening.
I do a lot of "seeding" in my first draft--putting in elements that might or might not develop into something such as a character or a subplot or a source of tension. Then on the second draft, I cut. Stephen King's 10% works for me. I usually set myself a goal of cutting 15 to 20% but end up cutting only 10%. The third or fourth draft is where I add those elements that should be in there to flesh out the story, but still, I have a goal of cutting 5 to 10% on each draft. If I add something, I try to eliminate the same amount or more someplace else. By the time I finished my current novel, it was 35% shorter than the first draft.

I think of revising as being like sculpting. How did Michaelangelo create David? He took a rock and cut away everything that wasn't David. The first draft is like quarrying the stone--you have to give yourself enough to work with. After that, it's all cutting. I don't miss the parts I cut out. When I go back and compare the first draft with the final, I'm always pleased with the improvement.
I usually cut 20% to 25% on the second draft and then go straight into line edit.

It's painful, but I think it makes everything a lot tighter and work a lot better. There's nothing like getting a bit of distance from the first draft to make the actual story stand out.
There! I went to see what Stuart had to say. Figuring, whatever it is, it works brilliantly. :)
Judging by your picture, you might be taking the cutting to extremes, Stuart!
I wouldn't consider the work wasted. I'm sure that you learn each time you do it. Editing and being ruthless is the best way to make your WIP work, so don't let it depress you.

Sit down, and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it. ~Colette, Casual Chance, 1964

I love this advice. You got to be a hard-ass and be willing to lop of a limb to save the body.


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