Rule of thumb--after you've finished the first draft, get rid of 10%. I saw this idea someplace a while ago, but it wasn't brought home to me until the other day when I needed to make a piece which is over 5,000 words, no more than 4,000 words. It was polished and ready to go, I thought.

Then I began to edit, and guess what--I rather easily eliminated 500 words. One tenth. That's when I remembered the rule of thumb. And yes, I think it's a better story now. Some non-essential stuff is gone. The story itself hasn't changed. I've trimmed several descriptions, and I've found that I need to look at the end of each sentence for trailing prepositional phrases and other stray words. I don't use a lot of adverbs or adjectives, but I found several that could go.

I've written several flash pieces which were almost twice as long as they could be to place them. I've whittled them down to the required word count. Sometimes this is a bit too much, but usually it makes for a more interesting, sharper story. And it's a good exercise. Try it, you might be surprised.

However, I'm not sure I can get rid of another 500 words in that piece I'm working on. I put it aside for a couple of days. I'm going to have another go later. Should be interesting.

(This blog edited for wordiness--have fun finding any extras!)

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Comment by Jan Christensen on January 25, 2008 at 4:02am
Thanks for commenting, Dana. I would guess that everyone who blogs wonders if anyone at all is reading it. I have big plans to write more here. Hope you'll come back to read them!
Comment by Dana King on January 25, 2008 at 2:26am
I do this myself, though not as much as I used to. GEtting in the habit of a 10% cut has made me more aware of wordiness in my initial draft, though my cuts are still usually in the 7-9% range.

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