Monday, July 25, 2011

Wisdom from the Revision Trenches

Lately I've been working on a revision of TKoGU. Among the (many) things I'm working on in this round is lowering the wordcount. THE KING OF GROWING UP is contemporary YA, a genre where normal wordcounts are between ~40k-65k, maybe going as high as 80k if you're a multi-published author. My wordcounts for this genre are usually around 50k, with FAKE clocking in at 64k.

But TKoGU, at the end of the first draft, clocked in at 90k.


My problem isn't that it's full of useless scenes and filler. My problem is that it isn't. Almost everything is crucial to the story, there isn't all that much plot fat to cut. I found a few scenes that could go, but mostly I've been skimming the prose itself to try to cut that wordcount down.

I try to play a game with myself sometimes while I'm editing. I try to cut as many words as possible, being absolutely ruthless. If a single word doesn't improve a sentence, it goes. If a line of dialogue isn't absolutely necessary, it goes. Watching that wordcount go down is thrilling, and I feel like I'm really accomplishing something. I got it down to 87k, which is an improvement, if only slight.

But today, while I was playing this weirdo game, I came across a chunk of the story where some dialogue needed to be tweaked to reflective new information that had come in earlier in the revision. A character needed to say a few more things for that information to make sense in this scene.

That required a few extra words. I was worried for a minute. Wasn't I losing my game if my wordcount went from 87,031 to 87,045? Maybe I shouldn't add those couple extra things, are they really THAT necessary?

Then I stopped myself. I just started thinking, "This is stupid. The story needs that dialogue to change. So what if it's a couple words longer?"

The exact amount of words doesn't matter a whit compared to the quality of words.

If I was adding a couple words, but they were good words and not just fluffy filler words, then that's totally fine. I'd rather have a story a few words above where I'd like it to be than a story that is perfect word-wise, but doesn't make any sense.

I hope my lesson learned helps someone out there. Anybody else play the silly wordcount reduction game?


  1. Sometimes it is hard to decide what is crucial and what is fluff. I think I wind up writing a bunch of filler in my work and need to revise to figure out what I can cut.

  2. I agree with Regina. And you. It's always good to cut the fat, because if it's not necessary, it's not helping. But if you've gone through and it's all essential, the most you can do is try to say things in a shorter way (if necessary) or bite the bullet and tell yourself that's it's longer because you've crammed more awesome in it. Good luck with everything. :)

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  5. I posted an idea, but I liked it so much I figured I'd use it as my blog post tomorrow XD

    I'll be linking to this, btw.

  6. Awesome, Christine! :P Looking forward to your post!