Slashing the word count

Normally, we (and by we I mean I) talk about building word count, stacking words on top of words. That is why you will see endorsements (unpaid) of #10kwritathon and Camp NaNoWriMo as well as (future) (still unpaid) endorsements of normal NaNoWriMo.

But sometimes authors have to think about cutting the word count down, too.

Why? The more words the merrier, right?

No. Well. Yes. Sometimes. But also no.

No, because superfluous words are stupid and slow down the story and make the reader think they are reading 15th century literature. Or 18th. I don’t really know my history of literature, sorry. But basically “old timey classics” that, okay, some people, and I respect the reading habits of all individuals (even those who don’t read) but there is no denying that dense and heavy and long and one paragraph per page is not necessarily better than writing at a 7th grade reading level.

I can feel the tension in the air. Some of people will want to fight me on this. I say bring it on.

Not because I want to fight you on your opinions, necessary. I just want to fight.

Fighting aside, though, apparently according to this super cool editing app that everyone should play around with and have fun with and it probably deserves its own blog post soon, Hemingway wrote at a 4th through 7th grade reading level, making his writing clear and bold and persuasive, and stuff. His stuff was easy to read but still the audience was for adults. Writing for readability doesn’t mean that the writing has to lose its thoughtfulness or anything like that. Writing can still be impactful, even if it’s not only 3 sentences long (and filled with 398 semi colons).

Cutting the word count can also speed up the action. That is what I found when I was editing down Chapter 15 in my Isaura story. There were so many words that I liked, and details that I put in, that were truly nonessential, but like I said, I still liked them. But when I cut them out, the action barreled along faster and faster, and I ultimately think the chapter was more impactful, just because there was less time for the audience to “adjust” to things.

No inner monologing. Not for too long, anyway. That is my motto.

It’s really, really hard to cut the word count. I have gone from 560 to 580 to 520 and back to 580. I am at 550 as I type this blog post. I need to take a break from that because it is hard to cut words. It all seems so essential.

There comes a point where the bare skeleton is staring back up at you from the page, and that is when the editing should stop, and the printing people should suck it up and print the extra pages.

It’s prose. It’s supposed to be pretty and wonderful and impactful and breath taking. And a lot more adjectives, that I can’t include, because I’m talking about slashing word count in this post.

I am 56 words over my word count goal for all blog posts. Are there 56 words I could find and delete in this post to make it more concise and impactful? Absolutely. Do I want all of you to read my thoughts as they are, in all of their unedited glory? Apparently.

Have fun today, guys.

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