Last Tuesday I finished the third draft of my latest masterpiece, tallied up the word count, and nearly fell off my chair when it weighed in at a whopping 92,000.
Ow! I gotta cut back on the cream puffs.
There's a range of opinion on appropriate word count for a manuscript, but for middle grade and a first-time author, 92,000 is too high. I can just see the literary agent reading the first line of my query, groaning, and clicking the delete button.
I'd like to get rid of 10,000 words. 15,000 would make me really happy. But that's 40 - 60 pages! Four to six chapters!
What am I going to do?
First of all, I can cut extra phrases from my sentences. I love to tack on extra phrases like this: "He ran down the street and hid under a hedge that was next to a fire hydrant." Who needs to know that the hedge was next to a fire hydrant? CHOP!
I can also prune my dialog. If I let them, my characters would sit around, chatting all day, and never get to the story. Much of it is charming, but I'm on a word diet. CHOP! CHOP!
Another temptation I have is to show my characters going through their daily routines. If nothing important happens until after lunch, then why do I need to show them brushing their teeth, making their bed, eating breakfast, walking to school... CHOP!
Then in each scene itself, I tend to do some throat-clearing before I get to the point. And after the action, my characters want to sit around and discuss what just happened. There's a screenwriting principle called "in late and out early." If I start each scene as close to the action as possible, then cut out as quick as I can, that's more words to CHOP!
If all this doesn't work, I may have to resort to plot surgery. Yes, as much as I'd hate to admit it, there may be a subplot that needs to go.
I'm waiting for my test readers to give me their opinions while I sharpen up my axe. I'll let you know how the chopping goes.
Where do you find words to chop?