Monday, 6 February 2012

WIP'ing the Word Count

Before I update you on my WIP, I need to tell you about my problems with Hotmail. Last week I went through every comment and replied to them as I always do, by sending an email back to the commentor. I thought all was going well until I discovered a lot of them had been sent to the same email address, and not who they were intended for. A few swear words were uttered, I can tell you. So, if you either a) received several emails from me that made no sense or b) didn't receive a reply to your comments, I apologise. I have no idea how many of you did get my emails or what the solution to the problem is. I'll let you know if I manage to resolve it.

Now on to my WIP Update:



The problem with re-reading first drafts, as I have done in the last two weeks, is you find a lot that needs cutting, and down goes the word count. Suddenly your precious 90,000 words become 83,798 words. You also note all the scenes, dialogue, and description you should have written, and theoretcially up goes the word count. You slice, dice, and then cajole a few more words into existence. So maybe we should call editing 'WIP'ing the word count'? What do you think?

Putting humour aside, one of the most important lessons I have learnt whilst editing is that you should trust your instinct when it comes to cutting or re-writing. What was your first reaction to a word, line, paragraph, or scene? If your instinct said it doesn't work then it doesn't. If it said it isn't good enough, it isn't. Always trust your first reaction. You have the answers within you.

Now this might sound contradictory but another important lesson is to keep everything you cut, especially if it's a scene. You may just change your mind. You may want that line or scene for another piece of writing. Or you might not have been paying full attention to your instinct when you cut it and later regret not keeping an earlier version. Keep everything. You'll thank yourself one day.

So, what important lessons have you learnt whilst WIP'ing the word count?

26 comments:

  1. Hi Ellie, nice to see you back. I keep the original manuscript and every subsequent edit or revised MS is called Nina 1,2,3....
    that way I can always refer to the original or see if the changes are working or not.

    While cutting the word count, I sometimes end up removing things that I should not have deleted.

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  2. Do you only answer the people who've commented on your blog then? No visits to other blogs to see what people are up to? Or are you super techie and do everything through a dashboard?

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  3. Good morning to you lovely Ellie!!

    Yay for whipping your wip into shape!! Slash and burn!! :-)

    I always keep the "off cuts", always!! You never know...!!

    Take care
    x

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  4. I didn't receive any strange emails that I know of.
    I so rarely need to cut. I write bare bones so when I go back over it, my firs thought is 'Wow, does that ever need some detail or explanation!'

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  5. I'm more like Alex, bare bones. What I hate though, is reading through and seeing that I already said the same thing 4 chapters back but forgot about it.
    I received an email from you - only one and it made sense. :)

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  6. I've not had any emails from you. Good luck with the editing.

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  7. My problem is the WIP count continues to increase. The soft bound copy of my book is just over 400 pages. Not a terrible thing, but I did want to keep it at 360 pages. But its an action adventure so the story does move forward at a fast pace.

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  8. Oh, yes, I definitely keep everything I cut. I have a dedicated file just for this purpose. By the end of the writing it can have half the word count of the final novel. Can you tell I'm a pantser. :)

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  9. It's nice to see that others have a more bare bones approach, too. I used to think it was just me. :)

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  10. The last cut I did dropped an already low 77k down to about 51k. Still have to get back into the rewrite of the ENTIRE ending. So I can totally sympathize with the cuts. Good Luck :)

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  11. Glad to see you WIPing back into action!

    I've learned to pay attention. If you cut or add something, it's going to effect the rest of the book. Be ever watchful for consistency.

    In the middle of a rewrite now. :)

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  12. So glad you're back to your writing. Good for you. Yes saving the cuts and murdering your darlings are so important. Havind someone you trust reading your WIP out to you really makes you hear it in a different light too.

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  13. I cut a bunch of stuff, only to include other things that were missing. So my word count dropped, and now is back up again!

    A lot of it was laziness and using too many adverbs. It always takes more work (and more words) to replace an adverb or two.

    Keep track of characters, setting, details. When you cut or change something, make sure you make the change elsewhere in the book.

    So if you decide to give your main character green eyes instead of brown, make sure you go onto page 322 and change the brown eyes to green as well!

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  14. Glad you're getting that sucker whipped into shape! The hard thing I've had to learn is to just go with it. My books often take me somewhere I wasn't intending or don't like at that time, but usually if I just put my head down and go with it, it turns out better than whatever I was trying to do.

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  15. My first book when I was editing it, went from 94,000 to 72,000 (I cut out a whole POV because it wasn't working). So that was huge for me. But I did save everything I cut. I have it all in a separate folder. Good luck whipping that WIP into shape!

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  16. You are so right about going with your first instinct about a sentence or paragraph. If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.

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  17. I keep everything too. I make a copy of the original and archive it too.

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  18. Yes! I was recently tightening a short shory and it really does come down to trusting your instinct.

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  19. My word count is easing downwards but I expect it to bounce back up when I return to add/beef up scenes here & there.

    At the moment I'm mostly cutting a few words here, a sentence there, and I keep prior versions to refer back to. But if I'm hacking an entire scene, I drop it into a separate "dustbin" document in case anything turns out to be useful later on.

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  20. I have kept every re-write for the last like, 3 years. Not long ago I started going through all my versions, and decided to dump several of them.

    When the time is right to delete, the author will know it. If you're ambiguous about cutting that darling - then cut it, but save save save.

    Some day, it will all fit perfectly :)

    ..........dhole

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  21. I always keep stuff from previous drafts, just in CASE I might need it later on.
    Anyway, nice to see you back!

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  22. I had a scene with two characters stuck in an elevator. They planned on going up through the roof of the elevator car and climbing up to the next floor.
    Then I realized I had them on the top floor.
    I kept that faulty draft, then the new version had one of the characters propose going up through the roof of the elevator. I had the other character point out they were on the top floor as a funny end to the scene. One of my proofreaders jotted down in the margin how amusing that was.

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  23. Great tips Ellen! So happy to see you back! I thought you had dropped off the planet! Hope life is well, for you~

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  24. I always have a file in which I keep every delete line or scene. Makes it easier for me to cut, knowing I can always add it back in later if it's needed.

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  25. I'm on the other end of the word count right now, knowing that with every 1K I write, there's sure to be a third of it cut once I hit the editing stage. But I like what you say about holding onto our deleted scenes. Who knows when one might show up in a different novel with entirely different characters?

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  26. methinks a wip is not a time to concern oneself with a word count...

    around the second or third 're-write' it becomes important, to me...

    if, all along, i'm in the ballpark, say within 2-3k words... that's close enough

    most often i tend to overshoot, since it's easier to delete, than add, words near the final re-write

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