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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Because I write very methodically, editing every day before I move forward, I generally add rather than subtract on later drafts. It always seems a bit too controlled, too terse, and I think it's because I started out writing poetry.
I've gone back sometimes and done revision, especially when something earlier on affects what I'm writing now. When you say you add material, is any of that in the form of subplots or major plot points, or is it just details and description?
I should really just get over it, but somehow the thought of adding another 10K words or more just brings me down. I really should treat it like a job, then I wouldn't get upset about it and just see it as part of the process.
My problem is that once I've explored something I like to move on, rather than polish. It's the thrill of something new that spurs me on, even though I know full well that nothing gets any good without all the polish.

But this novel, I have a stronger connection with and I admit that I can't wait to get to the second draft.
I think Margaret Maron calls this "sprinkling the fairy dust"--going back and adding details and local color and such. Works for her.
I'm probably not typical but I revise as I go, chapter by chapter, page by page, paragraph by paragraph -- and then I revise the whole book again.
Revisions tend to add material on the first go-round, but they cut unnecessary verbiage on the second and third. The whole-book revision sometimes cuts whole chapters.
Do I grieve? Not at all. I overwrite anything that is flawed. Nothing is left of the original version. The few times I have saved something, I have not needed it subsequently.
Do I grieve?

I like the way you put that. makes me feel silly. Especially since I learned the concept while making music long ago: the song is what counts, not that particular riff or bar.
Don't feel silly. We all dislike cutting. But at some point you just have to get on with it.
I just went through a manuscript, knowing I wanted to add a few scenes and expecting to cut any repetitions. Before adding those few scenes, the manuscript has ended up longer than when I started. However, before you throw your hands up in frustration thinking you're alone, I cut about 15,000 words from SC in the final draft. By the time I got there, it felt good, because it was easier to identify the repeats and also to see the benefit of trying to be as economical with the words as possible. It's always a delicate balancing act, but the rule is GNDN: Goes Nowhere, Does Nothing. Every scene I'm asking it what it brings to the story, and because I usually do ongoing revisions throughout the first draft, anything that doesn't contribute is long gone before I get to the end.

But nothing is wasted. It's part of honing our craft. Think of it this way - you can see the other subplot will be better. This process will give you confidence in the final product, help you know you've worked hard to make it as strong as possible.
But nothing is wasted. It's part of honing our craft.

I like that, and GNDN. I've tried to keep a one sentence throughline for the story as a way to stay focused, but I've changed it a number of times as I figure out what the story is. I guess that's one of the trade-offs you get when you only semi-outline.

That prologue you read is something I don't plan on using now, but it gives me something solid to weave into the story and helped me get to know my characters better. So, yes, nothing wasted.
I'm from the revise as you go school, too.
I start each writing day by first editing the previous chapter or scene and only moving on when I feel it's ready. This can be slow work as I tend to rework scenes numerous times before moving on and then I go back to them later and revise again and again. By the time I'm finished the first draft, it's more like the hundredth draft if not more. And then I begin work on the second draft.
I also find, like Sandra said, that I tend to write leaner on the first draft, focusing more on movement of plot and character building, and then in the second draft I add scenes where they're needed and remove scenes that don't work or slow down the pacing. After the second draft it goes to my agent, who then sends me her revisions (which often involves me removing my rather dark humor). I've found my agent, Amy, to have a very keen eye and even though some of the cuts she has asked for have hurt, (mostly because I enjoyed the word play of the scene - or the dark humor - rather than how it fit into the plot) it always makes the novel stronger.
Ah, the good old 'kill your darlings' does seem to work every time. It makes sense: if you like the wording better than the plot or character development, it's not exactly serving the piece as a whole.


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