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Monday, September 14, 2009

Not Enough Room!

When I stepped into my closet yesterday morning, this is what I saw. I have a perfectly good shelving unit to hold my shoes, but apparently there isn't enough room. (Well, maybe, I have too many shoes.) I decided it was time to get organized and make my shoes fit on the shelves. The first step was to get rid of the shoes that served no purpose. These are the ones that either didn't fit, didn't match anything I own, or were so worn out, I'd never wear them in public anyway. I threw out three pairs. Yay! I've made more room already. Like my shoe shelf, my manuscript is also overcrowded. The standard word count for YA is much lower than for other genres. SCBWI guidelines say that YA should be no more than 65,000 words. I've heard from other sources that 80,000 is acceptable. In either case, mine is too long. To make matters worse, I've realized, thanks to my most awesome beta readers, that I need to beef up some aspects of my story, which means more words, not less. So, what do I do? Well, just like my shoes have to fit on my shelves, my story is going to have to fit within the guidelines. Cutting unnecessary words isn't going to do the trick. I now have to cut entire scenes. You know, the ones that serve no purpose. These are the ones that don't develop the characters, move the plot along, establish setting, or build internal or external conflict. These scenes have to go. Yikes! I'm a little nervous, but here I go! What about you? Have you had to cut scenes? If so, how do you decide which ones to cut?

40 comments:

Tess said...

Cutting is so much more difficult than beefing - but you can do it! You seem to have a real grasp on what types of scenes can go and what needs to stay. Good luck!

storyqueen said...

Yikes! I am facing this as soon as I get brave enough to read my book again. But I am putting it off until I feel stronger.

Cut out what isn't necessary. (I know, easier said than done....)

Wishing you the best!

Shelley

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

LazyWriter, can I make a confession? I'm a girl, so I do love shoes. But I never wear them! I only wear flip flops, even in the winter. Obviously, a few dressy occasions come up in life, but in general I don't wear all of the shoes on my shelves. And still, I want to buy some each season (even though I don't). ::Deep breaths:: That felt good. Whew! :0)

I wrote a short story yesterday, which is odd in itself because I've only written three short stories in my entire life. But it just came out. And last night, I had to cut a great scene with awesome images because it didn't move the plot and I was over the word limit even without it. I know your pain! Happy editing!

jbchicoine said...

I’m still rewriting my YA, 150k word novel, and trimmed nearly 10k words so far. I always ask myself: Does this reveal something new about one of the characters, one of the relationships, or about the plot? Have I already established it previously? Does it move the story forward, or does it delay progress? Perhaps one small thing is revealed in the midst of many extraneous facts—could it be trimmed down or moved to another scene altogether—is it even necessary? If a scene does not move the story along, added necessary insight into a character or plot, I CUT.

Scott G.F.Bailey makes some very interesting points over at the Literary Lab, on backstory . Personally, I’m going to apply this as I go along and see how much of the backstory bogs down and bulks up my writing. He could be onto something…

Regina Milton said...

Good luck with that. That is so hard, as you know. I can't stand to do it sometimes because I'll be thinking "...but I really like the way this character says such and such in this scene, you mean I have to cut the whole thing?"

I hate to do it, but in the end it makes for cleaner more purposeful dialogue and scenes. Good luck!

Terri Tiffany said...

I feel for you on the scene cutting. Yuck! I have had to cut a few flashback moments in mine and it hurts for a second and then it actually felt right:)

Beth said...

My closet looks like this right now too, so kudos to you for getting it under control. :)

Haven't had to make cuts yet, but I'm sure I will -especially because I write how I talk, blah blah blah!

Natalie Bahm said...

I've always had the opposite problem. I don't write enough the first time around and then I have to add scenes to develop characters more and draw out the action. I know it's hard to cut though so good luck!

Patti said...

I cut two whole chapters with my book. One was more of a prologue. I really liked it and it explained a lot, but it didn't advance the plot. (I'm saving it for a prequel)

The second chapter showed character but did nothing to advance the plot so I cut it as well.

It got easier the more I did if that's any consolation.

Janna Qualman said...

Your analogies are always so clear and perfect!

If it doesn't help the plot along, it gets cut. If it's random, it gets cut. Other than that, it's hard! Good luck to ya.

Suzanne said...

Delete is liberating once you get the hang of it! Go through the ms and read it. LINE BY LINE. Then just delete the sentences you don't like. I find that those are unnecessary ones. That the other two left behind make better sense without the bad one in the middle. See if that brings down the word count....

L. T. Host said...

Natalie, I have the EXACT SAME problem--- at least I did with my current WIP. When I finished my first draft it was about 64,000 words--- as a fantasy. Not YA, even. I've spent the last two months approximately adding to it, and adding to it, and developing character etc and just now have finally crested over into 88,000. It was a workout though...

Here's the funny part, and this is where I come back around to the trouble you're having, LW--- if (when--- it's positive thinking time!---) I get an editor, I'm sure they'll tell me some of the new stuff has got to go. Then I'll be in your shoes, because I really love the depth and richness that all the new stuff has brought to my story!

I'm only sorry I don't have any ideas to help you deal with yours, but I can imagine how difficult it is to take words out when it's so hard to put them in in the first place.

Jungle Mom said...

It must be hard to have to cut something out of your work. I get very attached to most things I write and find it hard to leave something out.

Novice Writer Anonymous said...

I find that cutting has gotten easier over time. Especially with Oracles Promise. But there will always be a little blood and a little salt with each cut.

Cindy said...

Ugh, yes! I am doing that with my manuscript right now. Cutting and reworking is hard! I love to add it more, it's easier and more fun. Tightening up paragraphs is one thing, but cutting entire scenes (like I just did in my first chapter) is hard. It took time to write that and then in two seconds (with a highlight and Delete), it's gone!

Stephanie Faris said...

My manuscripts usually aren't long enough! I'm stretching to get there. Which works fine for beefing up things during revisions. But I did recently have an agent request I rework a YA for middle grade/tween audiences, which took a complete rewrite, pretty much!

The pale observer said...

Purging is great! I clear out my closets at least every six months. Feels so free-ing!

How does one become a beta reader?? :)

FictionGroupie said...

I'm going through this, too. I'm considering cutting my first chapter because it's mostly backstory and it's killing me. I worked so hard on that chapter. *sigh*

Heather Sunseri said...

I will be cutting some scenes when I get to the editing stage. I'm not too long yet, but I will be once finished. Good luck!! I'm not looking forward to cutting.

Carrie Harris said...

Yep. I had to do some big cuts to my last manuscript, and boy did it hurt. But getting rid of all of that redundant stuff made is so much better. Hope your cuts go well!

Jill Kemerer said...

Oh yeah, I've cut scenes. Usually, I have to flesh out the scene better, though, which means adding words. Best of luck!

Karen said...

I actually rewrote an entire chapter of my current WIP. Originally it was a lot of background about my characters, but I cut a huge chunk of that and just went with one story to show what their relationship is/was rather than a bunch of explanation. It's fewer words and, I think, more interesting.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

I cut the ones that make my eyes roll after reading the ms for the thousandth time. Seriously, if you find yourself bored while reading, it needs to go, if you've done all the reworking you can to it already.

Jody Hedlund said...

I had a great call with my new editor today (wow, it seems really strange saying that!). Anyway, I realize that I'll have some things to cut and change with my book. And the process sounds rather daunting! But hopefully I'll be able to plunge in and tackle it like I would any other project!!

Lady Glamis said...

I do scene outlines, as I explain in my Don't Dis the Map series on my blog. A little complicated, but the gist of it is that if your scene doesn't have specific tension and doesn't contribute to the plot or characters, it has to go. I like the sentence my friend came up with to figure this out:

Sentence = protagonist with a need + antagonist with a need + conflict + twist

If you can't do this with the scene, it probably needs to go.

Amy Tate said...

I just hate throwing away shoes, don't you? When I need to cut a manuscript, I look for phrases that I can replace with single words. Sometimes you can get the same effect with more powerful verbs. Best of luck!

Girl in My Own World said...

I have not had to yet, but I still coming along. I am sure that I will have to edit stuff out though. Don't worry it will all work out fine. Just take your time and evaluate what works and what does not. You will be fine! Also, perhaps, maybe you can make a part 2 to your novel... just a thought. :o)

Dominique said...

One method I've heard is to write out a card for every scene. On that card, list the characters in it and what happens with them. Also, describe how this scene is a)moving along the plot, b)increasing the tension, and c)deepening the understanding of the characters and conflict. Any scene that doesn't do these things can go. (This trick is also useful for seeing if the character really needs to be in that scene.)

Girl Meets Gun said...

I had to cut entire scenes. They were funny, but served no purpose as you said. I kept them on the side for use in a later story. :)

This is always a good point because some of us can get carried away with word counts. Mine is 86,000 right now, but I'm sure it'll be cut down more!!!!

Robyn Campbell said...

I had a lot of cutting to do on my MG adventure story. I ended up searching for filler words. WAS is my fav. And taking all of the filler out that I could and it really shortened it. And then you have room to beef up the story. Which means to strengthen it. Enhance it or give that story a boost. You'll do it. :) And that is where your beta readers come in. They can give you useful ideas about where and why. Good luck my friend. It ain't easy I know! :)

Strange Fiction said...

I know I'll have to do some chopping after I finish the "crappy first draft" I'm working on. But right now I have the opposite problem. I need more words. Lots and lots of them!

Strange Fiction said...

Hmmm... I'd be happy to take some of yours off your hands. lol

strugglingwriter said...

As far as noveling goes, I'm normally on the lower end of the scale, so I usually have the opposite problem.

With shorter fiction though, it can be rough. There is stuff in there that you really like and hate to cut, but it has to be done. Just try to view everything from the point of view of moving the story forward. Everything else can go. Easier said than done, I know.

Laura Martone said...

As usual, Susan, you completely nailed my current struggle! This summer, I was supposed to revise my novel heavily. It started life at 290k words (yes, you read that right - I scoff at what some consider LONG), then was trimmed to 240k, then 212k, and now it's at 196k... so I still have a LONG way to go. I'm a little envious of those writers (like Natalie B. and Steph F.) who start off with small mss and have to build from there. I've always been longwinded, and I've always found it difficult to cut characters and scenes. I only wish that I had Eileen's ability to cut the passages that bore me - but nothing bores me. I'm not saying that my story is perfect OR exciting - 'cause I know it isn't - but I love my world so much that I want it all to stay put.

But my four most recent beta readers have given me some terrific advice - and helped me to see what's necessary... and what might not be. I'm eager to start compiling a list of their suggestions, to look for commonalities, and I plan to take Dominique's suggestion and use index cards to break down my entire novel. Although I started with an outline (long, long ago), the story grew in its own organic way, and it's probably necessary for me to break it down again. Might help me to see which scenes and characters are repetitive - and don't move the story along.

Good luck, Susan! Believe me, I know how hard it is to strip away your baby!

Danyelle said...

*editing cookies* I'm a bare bones writer, so I generally have to add scenes or flesh them out rather than cut things away. But revising still hurts, no matter which side of the scales you fall on.

Tabitha Bird said...

The useless word says something that has already been said before or didn't need to be said- it goes. That's my word slashing principle

Leah Rubin said...

That's the hardest part-- editing ourselves (and our shoes). We just have to pretend that someone else wrote it, and be tough!

WhisperingWriter said...

Oh my gosh, yes, I've had to cut lots of scenes that made no sense. I think it's because I write when I'm tired and I have no idea what I'm talking about.

Solvang Sherrie said...

You do have a lot of shoes!

I'm the opposite. I write really spare and then end up having to add words.

Tara said...

I love that you only had three pairs to dismiss from the closet. I haven't had to cut scenes, but I've had to rework some. I try to find the real gems of the scene, and in some cases I've been able to work those gems into a combined scene. You may want to save any cuts in a separate file. You never know when you can use them in another scene or when you'll decide you need them after all. Good luck with the cuts.