WEDNESDAY WRITING TIP: Edit Word Count ? Maybe Not!

Posted: January 13, 2010 in Wednesday's Writing Tip
Tags: , , ,

Typically, the advice you get is to reduce your work by at leat 10% with each editing session. If you’ve got 100,000 words when you start you should have 90,000 after you edit the first time and 80,000 the second time.

On Writing is my favorite book on writing but...

Why?

Good writing means using the fewest words possible to get your plot, characters and feel communicated.

Could your editing ever result in increrasing your word count?

It does for me.

That used to bother me but it doesn’t any more.

I’ve come to realize that my first draft is for me to get stuff out of my head and on to paper. I write for short bursts of time and when I go back and read what I’ve written I’ve almost always find that I need to develop themes more, get into characters more and smooth out the plot by adding seasoning.

It goes against Stephen King’s, Syd Fields and Robert McKee’s advice.

The lesson? Take advice, find out what experts say and then do whatever it takes to get your book written.

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Comments
  1. Just think how long King’s books would be if he didn’t edit?! Oops, there goes the rainforest!

  2. Hi Tom, you’re absolutely right. King’s book had so much good advice in it but I had to disagree with him there. I use the first draft as a skeleton to hang the rest of the meat on. It’s probably just me but my concentration is so bad I need a few rewrites to get me into the story. Or indeed, find out what the story’s about.

    I’m in agreement. Take what works and use it. There’s only one rule that I can see: have a good book at the end of it. How you get there doesn’t matter.

    All the best, Martyn

  3. Jen Forbus says:

    Very interesting. I believe Rebecca Cantrell and Sophie Littlefield were saying recently at 7 Criminal Minds that they write similarly….adding in the editing phase, I mean.

    Whereas Michael Koryta says he doesn’t outline; he just writes…and writes…and writes…and has to cut a lot at the end since he isn’t following any set, determined course. *sniff* I was a victim of that cutting. đŸ˜‰

    Anyway, I guess it doesn’t matter all that much to me as I’m not the writer. I’m only interested in the outcome. So, add or subtract. Do what you need and come out with a great book I can read.

    King can only write to what works for him, but why would that have to be the end all answer? If writers always followed the exact same rules for writing, we’d be reading the same things that people wrote eons ago. That’s boring.

  4. Mark Terry says:

    People work different ways, but I and several other successful novelists I know tend to write lean first drafts that need to have details layered in on subsequent drafts.

    • tjs9261 says:

      Hey Mark!

      Coming from you, that makes me feel good. Your plots are tight and it just goes to show that there’s more than one way to do things.

  5. Robin Cain says:

    Kind of like saying, “Listen to what others have to say and do whatever the hell you were going to do anyway!” LOL! Editing is one of the hardest tasks as a writer. Each word seemed to have a purpose and a place the first go-around. How do we chose which ones to dump??? Thanks for the wise words.

  6. marycunningham says:

    I tend to end up with more words because the first time through, I’m very sparing with description. I add more as I edit.

    Mary

    http://marycunninghambooks.com

  7. L.J. Sellers says:

    Stephen King also says outlining isn’t necessary, that is stifles creativity. I disagree with that as well.—Another lean writer

  8. Just a Girl says:

    i am not published or anything …but when i write …its a mind dump at first and I leave out words like …and, the, this, he, that…etc…

    SOOO my stuff gets longer….so far…since I am not done I dont know…might get shorter as i near completion.

    I write out my idea –
    he goes to store, meets a friend, they talk, he walks home.
    then i got back at talk about how he got to the store what it was like along the way
    What happened when he meet the friend, what they were doing
    What they talked about
    and then the walk home…

    Sometimes I write thewalk home and the walk there first…then their conversation changes the walk home so I go back and tweek that.

    In “Will write for shoes” a guide to writing “chick lit” the author says the first rule of writing is there are no rules…..do what works for you.

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