A few weeks ago I completed an edit on my book, cutting out a third of it after receiving some feedback from one of my query letters. My hopes were to bring it down to 100K from an initial draft of over 150K, the latter of which is not what you’d call a good length for a first time author. I thought the goal was impossible. Now it seems but a skip and a hop away.
My last edit was based more or less on length, bringing my book down to 105K. It was far better than I could have ever expected. Still, I needed to go through the book one more time, checking for typos, plot holes, leftovers from the previous draft and polish up the prose. So how is that edit going?
Since beginning, I’ve lost over 3000 additional words, bringing the edit down to 102K, and I’m still only on chapter 6. The book has 17 chapters total. A few hundred words here, a few hundred more there, it looks like a final edit below 100K is going to happen. But this latest edit I haven’t just been focusing on quantity, but also quality. Since my length is so close, I can really look at the prose and see what parts of it need the most work, and give them the attention they deserve.
Just yesterday I finished editing through chapter 5. I made a lot of small changes to the manuscript, especially in the first two chapters which had remained the most unchanged during my efforts to finish this thing up, but ultimately they became different enough and new enough for them to match the quality of the rest of the book.
I also caught some other references which would have proved problematic, to say the least, had they been thrown in. One of the characters in my book was a dragon deity who I’d clung to for some time. I wanted to keep her in because I enjoyed the design work one of my friends had done for her, and though it would be just too big a shame to lose her. As things wore on, it became clear that in this story, the character was but a talking head, delivering exposition and nothing more. While all the other characters grew richer and livelier, she remained the same in spite of my efforts.
It was a painful decision to cut her out of the book, but as Stephen King says, you must kill your darlings. Maybe in a future story she will have some place, but not this one. It was a decision I came to in the middle of my previous run through, so the first couple of chapters had references to the deity here and there. As if now, all references to the character have been scrubbed clean.
I do hope she’ll come back in some capacity, but we’ll see.
Right now the book has a wordcount of 102,259, a far cry from the 151,861 it was. But the lost words lacked the meaning I was seeking, and their loss makes this story less heavy, allowing it to fly that much higher like I always hoped it would.