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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If I'm writing a section, and it's boring me, I cut it before it wastes any more of my time.
Ooh, I like that idea. I think I've done it once myself. Just curious, do you outline?
Only if I'm forced to.
He he. But do you have an idea of where you're headed? Do you start with an ending in mind and everything works towards that, or is it totally seat-of-your-pants?

Not saying there's anything wrong with that, seeing as I use the one-cheek-of-the-seat-of-my-pants technique.
I outline because my publisher demands it before they'll buy the book. Then when the contract's signed, I throw the outline away. Don't tell them I said that.

Sometimes it ends up where the outline said, sometimes not. In SAFE AND SOUND, I ended up where I was originally heading. In BREAKING COVER, I ended up someplace different.
Ah, no I see what you mean by 'forced to'. It's not because you've created something to complicated to go without outlining, it's a business thing!
I like to get through a rough draft (I even call the file Draft 0), then go back and revise. That first good draft is sometimes even longer than the rough, because I'll sometimes write Draft 0 almost like a screenplay if I get on a roll with some dialog.

Stephen King has a rule of thumb that he should be able to cut 10% between the first and second draft. I use that rule for reviews, blog posts, and short stories, and it works well. With novels, not so well, as I usually find the need to add a scene or three along the way, or to flesh out something that made sense when i wrote, but I can't make heads or tails of it three months later.

Neither of these comments answer your question, now that I think about it. I guess the point is, everyone does it differently, sometimes even from book to book. The fact that you're thinking about it at all may well mean you're on the right track for you. This time. For now.
Interesting. For Steven King, it's 10%, Jennifer Weiner about 50%, and for me it's 20%. So you're right in that we just all have our own ways of working. Which makes sense, because this is not rocket science.
I tend to cut very little - like some of the writers who already posted, I tend to "write lean." I do a rough edit on the computer as I go, and I like to think my "first draft" is relatively polished. On subsequent edits, I refine, check for cliches and cut out redundancies. But I rarely cut whole scenes - I'd find that too painful!
Does that mean you outline or spend months thinking about the novel before you write?
I'm only just starting out, writing my first draft, and I know, even as I'm finishing each chapter, that there needs to be some trimming, that things can be made tighter, clearer and more concise. But I power on without touching what has been written, leaving the machete work for Draft 2 - this helps to keep things ticking over, keeps the story going in my mind, generates some momentum.

Of course, this is the first time I've done this and so, quite possibly, I'll get to Draft 2 and start pulling my hair out at all the rewriting I have to do and what a ballsache it all is! But that's for later - can't wait!

BTW, I hope no one sweeps up their cutting room floor and bins it all - you never know, some of that stuff may be perfect for future novels!!
I do keep the stuff I cut in a separate file but I find that I never go back to it. I have too many more exciting ideas to work with!


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