April 26, 2012

W is for...WiP, Word Count, and Whoa!!

Okay, now go back and reread that title, and make sure you say "Whoa!" like Joey Lawrence from Blossom. Did you do it? Good. Moving on... Every topic I thought of for today's 'W' post seemed to somehow come back to writing. The topic I chose is no exception. If you can't already tell from the title, I've reached "Houston, we have a problem"-level status in my WiP, which coincidentally (on 'W' day) is called Watch of Night. Or better yet: Wordier Than Heck.

WiP→ As mentioned, Watch of Night (YA sci-fi).

Word Count→ So embarrassing to admit, but it's in the 120,000 words range now. O_o

Whoa!!→ Yeah, I need to lose about 20,000 words. Too bad I'm still not done the first draft.

I have discovered the joy of hitting the Delete key on my keyboard, and I'm kind of addicted to it now. One day recently I sat down and just started reading over parts of my story, and doing exactly that. Extraneous words? Delete. Repetition for no other reason than trying to sound profound? Delete. And those pesky adverbs that the road to Hell is supposedly paved with*? Delete.

In finally locating my Delete key, I've also discovered that there is always something to delete. Back when I first started working on this story I thought there was no way under the sun that I could write enough words to actually make up a book. No way, no how. So I wasn't mindful of just how wordy I was getting. I'm ashamed to admit that there were times when I would consciously throw in an extra word just to hit my daily word goal sooner, and to make that overall word count climb. Of course, this was back when my WiP was in its infancy. Not that I'm much better now (still wordy), but at least I'm aware of how much I'm going to have to cut in revisions.

I read this recently on Janice Hardy's** blog The Other Side of the Story and it gives me hope:
"Long" novels are most often ones that are 120,000+ words. A 120,000 word novel is roughly 480 pages (based on the traditional 250 words per page format). You can cut 4800 words out if you cut just ten words per page. That's one sentence in most cases. Cut twenty words per page and you've practically hit your 10K mark. Twenty words is nothing. A 150,000 word novel? 600 pages, and 6000 or 12,000 words gone. Cut thirty words -- 18,000 words down.
Really? Well that's cool. She actually goes on to demonstrate how this can be done with one of her own already edited, printed, and published books (further proving that you can always lose words). I will be taking this under advisement, and I will  be getting better acquainted with my Delete key.

How about you? Do you tend towards wordiness too?

Addition: I knew that there was a blog post somewhere that gave great tips on cutting words from your WiP, but do you think I could remember it? Anyway, just stumbled across it again, and it was on Agent Rachelle Gardner's blog→ How to Cut Thousands of Words Without Shedding a Tear.
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* Thank you, Stephen King. And yes, you are right about this.
** Janice Hardy is a YA author and taught writing through Writers Digest Online Workshops.

30 comments:

  1. I'm usually not very wordy--70K is where most of my projects have landed (lower for upper MG). But I'm adding tons of words to the rewrite of my WIP--too bad I know about half of them are crap and will eventually be cut! :)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I hate that I'm so wordy. I can't even write a short blog post on being wordy. O_o I can't even imagine completing a story at 70K. I should really start aiming somewhere in that ballpark, knowing that I'm probably going to overshoot my mark.

      I suppose it's better to have to cut crappy words than to not have enough, right? :)

      Delete
  2. Yes, I have been known to get carried away with unnecessary verbosity. Indeed, sometimes I am afflicted with verbal diarrhea! But I am learning to edit. I have cut entire paragraphs--even sections--from a novel because I later thought they didn't drive the plot, or they were self-indulgent, or of interest only to me and the reader wouldn't care. I now have to watch that I'm not *too* brutal with that delete key! :)

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    1. I actually cut whole sentences and even paragraphs recently, and I found myself cheering. How weird is that? I don't want to be too brutal, like you say, but it definitely needs to happen. Ugh. Especially if I need to cut at least 20,000 words! :)

      Delete
  3. I'm opposite! I always need to go back and add... feelings, thoughts, creating the setting, etc. Though I do know what you mean about deleting... it's kind of therapeutic, in a way! LOL.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. The worst part about all this is that I still need to add things to make this story better. That means I'm going to have to get really serious about deleting. I think part of the problem is that I get too caught up in my MC's head (it's in 1st Person), which is a big no-no. It can be fixed, though. I'm confident of that. :)

      Delete
  4. I've got the opposite problem. My crit partners are usually saying expaaaand. Even when I'm reading published books, books I really enjoy, I'll edit while reading (in my head. I don't scribble on books, much to the relief of the librarians.) So I can't imagine getting to 120 evah!

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    1. I'm sort of jealous of all of you that need to expand after the fact. I don't think that would be a problem for me. :) I just need to be more mindful of my wording and making sure that I'm not being ridiculous. I already know which parts in particular need the most hacking. Thank goodness for that!

      Delete
  5. I tend to write very skeletal first drafts and then have to flesh them out later. But that doesn't mean i don't have to/need to delete big chunks. Not for word-count but for content. You're right - deleting is addictive! I suggest you don't truly trash anything. Start an "Outtakes" file and save what you cut there, just in case!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. My (almost) first draft is a very meaty body——the furthest thing from a skeleton lol! :) I wish I could be a little more skeleton-y and work in more details later. While I enjoy deleting, I'm careful to save my work under a different date so that everything from a previous date remains the same in case I change my mind after the fact. I'd hate to permanently lose something in crazy delete-a-thon moment.

      Delete
  6. I'm embarrassingly wordy. I find that in my first drafts, I'm better off being overly verbose in order to work out the details, then I can always go back and hit delete later. I've been known to shave drafts by 20K and even 30K and, like you, I find myself cheering as I go. There's nothing better than finding a cleaner, more succinct way to get a point across.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Well, judging from how easy it was for me to delete what I did, I'm fully expecting to trim this thing right down. So hopefully it'll be a more reasonable size. :) I so badly want to be more succinct, but it's something I'll need to work on.

      Delete
  7. The 1st draft of my first novel (Fantasy) was 74,000 words. I edited it a very little bit and got it to 74,300 words (lol). Then it was too much work/I didn't want to it/I was lazy, so I gave up. It now sits trunked in a drawer.

    My YA contemporary that I am working on went like this: first draft- 42,000 words. Seond draft- 44,000 words. Third draft- 46,000 words. I queried it at 46,000 words. Now I'm off the query bandwagon/hell and revising....It's been a sad fluctuation lol- I went from 46,000 words to 47,000 words and now I'm back at 43,000 words....GAH. Hoping to make it to 50,000.

    I think with writing, it really depends on what works for your book. What works for me may not work for you. Your book may nicely sit at 100,000 words. Mine may sit comfortably at 46,000 or 50,000, etc...

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Well, based on genre, most agents don't want a YA sc-fi book to go any higher than 100,000 words. In fact, most of them have it hovering around the 90K mark. The smaller word counts are often found in romances, for example. So for my YA sci-fi, I'm aiming for no more than 100K if I can get it there. :)

      Delete
    2. Huh, thanks for that tidbit, Jaime. I didn't know the 90k mark was good enough for sci-fi. I often feel like sci-fis are soooo long. I don't mind it, for reals I love me some sci fi. I'm just surprised at 90k versus 100k. But I think I compare it honestly to the old school sci-fis...
      And you can do it!!!! :D

      Delete
  8. Oh, how I can sooooo relate.

    My first manuscript? YA Sci-fi coming in around 125,000 once finished. I won't say where it was when I started.

    Second MS? YA Paranormal. Hovering right around 100,000.

    Current MS: YA Thriller / Mystery. After two edits, it was right around 86,000 - but now with all these rewrites, I'm up around 96k (even though I've been told not to worry, as we'll edit later).

    So yes, I'd say I have a slight addiction to words (I mean, have you known any of my comments to be short?). But then again, I guess that's why I write, right?

    And thanks for the tip from Janice Hardy - I'm on my way over there to check out her site!

    Great post, Jaime!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Not sure if you noticed, but I added a link to Agent Rachelle Gardner's blog too. She has a great post on ways to trim out thousands of words. Something we both can clearly use lol :D

      Oh, and gotta love how my post on being too wordy was totally wordy. Haha!

      Delete
  9. Wordiness has always been my main problem. I have also added words to hit my daily word count goal, even though I know it'll give me more work to do in the end. Now I need to check out Janice Hardy's blog as well. There may be help for me after all.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I added in a link to another great post by Agent Rachelle Gardner on how to trim thousands of words from your WiP. It has some great points and ideas.

      The nice thing about being too wordy is that there's always somewhere that our story can be tightened up. It's actually pretty easy to delete words here and there, I've found. :)

      Delete
  10. I tend toward sparseness--not the good kind. My first drafts do a LOT of telling, so I end up way under word count. Then I go back in and tell. I guess we're opposites :)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I just need to learn to use one word instead of two when one will suffice, you know? I think omitting dialogue tags here and there will also help, as will using contractions a little more. There are definitely ways to trim this sucker down! :) And I think I'm totally guilty of telling and not showing in parts of my WiP O_o.

      Delete
  11. I am SO wordy. Usually a lot of unnecessary convos between my characters - I always have to go back in and add setting details and stuff like that while chopping useless talking scenes.

    P.S. I miss Blossom! I LOVED that show.

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    1. A lot of my wordiness tends to occur inside my MC's head which is a giant no-no. I need to get out of her head and have more dialogue and less ruminating. :) And I also need to add in more setting details (you and me both). At this point I loathe the idea of adding instead of subtracting words, though.

      Delete
  12. I'm going by the maxim that "it's easier to take something away than to add it", and I'm putting everything down on paper.

    The delete key will be my friend in the second draft!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I think you're probably right about that. I find it's pretty easy to tighten things up when I make a concerted effort to do so. There are so many things that can be trimmed——dialogue tags, excess adverbs, too-long descriptions, etc. Not to mention, using contractions makes one word out of two. The delete key is definitely our friend. :)

      Delete
  13. Seems like everyone either writes too much or too little, haha. I'm of the "too little" crowd. I always need the help of my CPs to let me know where they'd like an extra scene or where they want me to slow down a bit and let them soak in the events.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I was noticing that too lol. :) I guess none of us can seem to get it right the first time, which should really come as no big surprise. None of us is perfect. :) It's great that you have CPs to help advise you on the parts that need beefing up. Fortunately for me, I have a really good idea which parts need snipping in my WiP.

      Delete
  14. Well, I've left you enough novel-length blog comments for you to know my answer :) I always feel like such a terrible blog citizen, both in my posts and comments, when I hit post and then go "...oh no. Word monster struck again."

    ReplyDelete
  15. Wordiness is def. a weakness of mine. But I'm the opposite of you. My first drafts are sparse. Then I revise and the WIP seems to get much, much longer. However, I don't think I could ever write a 120K novel. So far, I write realistic historical and contemporary YA. Before reading THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST by Emily Danforth, I didn't know realistic fiction could BE that long! What genre is your novel out of curiosity??

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hehe - my first project was 175K when I finished the first draft. I actually queried it that way (and got a full request - yeah, shocked too). I eventually polished that baby down to 100K. But yeah, my first drafts always tend to be, er...WORDY. :)

    You can do it, Jaime. But I'd get it finished and then worry about trimming. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete

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