Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Word Count Diet

Some of you may have noticed I was having some word count issues earlier. (AKA 120K for a YA novel). Well, now I'm 1/3 of the way through editing my novel, and I'm already down to under 103K. I plan to take the word count down as low as is necessary and then add some paragraphs in parts that weren't well enough explained in the original draft.

So, because I am now getting quite good at lowering my word count, I would like to present to you *drum roll please* The Word Count Diet!

1) FIRST, get rid of any extraneous scenes including characters you never mention again and who have no major part in the plot of the story. If you were trying to prove something about your MCs through interaction with these characters, try to show it in other ways throughout your story. (Of course, if your character just waves to a random person on the street, this doesn't count. I'm talking about full on scenes.)

2)Make sure any dream sequences you have are important.

3) If you have some nearly identical scenes, either get rid of one altogether or meld them into one.

Quick and Easy Grammar Tips
1) Get rid of "begins" or "began to" If the character wasn't running and is running now. We know that, at some point, she "began to" run.
2) Get rid of "that" as much as possible. (Ex: She knew that it wouldn't be easy --> she knew it wouldn't be easy)
3) Make all passive sentences active. (DUH.)
4) Remember to hyphenate hyphenated words. (yes, i understand this isn't really lowering anything, but I have "subtracted" a few words this way.)

Other Simple Stuff
1) Broaden your vocab and use descriptive words instead of descriptive phrases. Instead of saying "walked tiredly" say "plodded."
2) Leave "show and tell" to kindergarteners. When you have dialog, limit how often you tell how the character is feeling and thinking etc. The motto is "show don't tell" not "show and tell" for a reason. (I had this problem a lot. For some reason, I didn't seem to trust the readers to be able to figure things out on their own...)
3) Limit stuttering. This may sound silly, I know. But if EVERY time your character is confused or flustered they started going "I just...I...well...I just don't really know..." that's a LOT of extra words.

Finally, as you're reading keep these three thoughts in the back of your mind:
1) Do I need this?
2) Does it make sense?
3) Is this dragging?/Is there a lull?
4) Does this flow well with the rest of the story?

Try to think from the point of an agent or editor. If an agent feels a lull in the middle of your book or feels like a part is dragging, she won't trudge through it, she'll just put your wonderful masterpiece down and pick up another entry from the pile.

Be Aware of Lulls. Lulls are NOT your friend.

...But apparently, this little guy is!

Can I be your friend? Pweeze?

Have a great day! Smile!

<3 Gina Blechman


  1. Oh hello, adorable new kitten friend! *squeezes kitty for no reason, it's just that cute*

    I love this post. Cutting words is my friend. Except for right now. If I cut words from my WIP, it will cease to exist. And that's not good.

  2. Great tips! I shall go check out my current wip tomorrow! With your checklist in hand.

  3. Congrats on getting your word count down. It's not an easy task and your list of suggestions is fantastic!

  4. Wow. That is the cutest cat. Ever. I'll so totally be it's friend! *huggles kitty*

    One thing I just read was to start the scene late and end it early. It gets rid of some extra words, and it makes readers much more interested. :D

  5. Great tips -- and cute cat. Particularly the part that wasn't eaten by the frog ;)

    Hi, from a fellow crusader!

  6. I'm in the midst or some drastic revisions myself, wanting to cut my word count dramatically. I'm getting there, but have also had to make some changes which have left me in a mess. But I definitely need to do all that you suggested. I'm working on it slowly but surely - and my novel's getting a lot better! :)

  7. Great post fellow crusader! I now have to go back through my work- :)

  8. You are in very good company. I have the opposite problem: I can't write over 50,000 words and I'm very good at cutting out, well, everything. (That's what I get for being a professional editor.)

    So nice to meet you, fellow Ninja!

  9. Great post!

    thanks Gina, i have just taken out a paragraph with a character that is totally irrelevant to the story. The first page is NO place for a character that won't be seen again. (even though that won't be the first page in a proper edit i am sure)

    GREAT JOB i knew you could get that world limit down. Your writing will thank you for it. It will be so much tighter and more defined.

    keep going!