Thursday, 6 September 2012


I've done a monster edit (still in progress). I cut 30-40,000 words out of a novel that was only 50,000 words long in the first place. If I'd realised this was what I was going to end up doing, I probably never would've got started. I'd still be clutching the old, soggy version, pretending it was 'just fine really'.

I slashed and burned the novel in two chunks. First, I stripped 15,000 words of subplot out of the novel. Why? Sub-plots tend to bubble up within my novels that don't belong. I've moved the section I removed from Out of Time exactly as is to another word document, and it works perfectly as the first 15,000 words of a separate novel (The Clockwork Empire).

Actually it didn't take too much discipline to do this as I still get to keep the wordcount. There are strong psychological motivators for keeping word count high, and for a long time, it stopped me from editing with a clear head. It's better to delete the offending thousands of words (even if some of them might be salvageable).

Clean pages burn a lot better and quicker than ones that are muddled up with things you might or might not want to keep. With dirty pages, it's more about decision making (keep/delete), which seems to clog up creative flow. On a clean sheet, I can, sort of, write 6,000 decent words in a day - if I know where I'm going with it. Which by now, I ought to. And I really think it flows better.

This time, I was super-disciplined and didn't go back and endlessly edit. I just kept going till I reached the end of the novel. This took a week of full work (7am to 7 or 8pm, working in two/three hour blocks, with two hour rests), plus three half days. I now have 58,000 words, over half of which is half-sentences, ideas, events, raw dialogue which now needs to be fleshed out into properly nuanced and paced writing. I had a go at this yesterday, but I think I need more distance. Now, I'm working on the second novel (the 15,000 I stripped out), and ideas for the first are still coming to me. Awesome!

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