Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How to cut a long manuscript- writing tip

Someone recently submitted a 185,000 word manuscript and, though the sample appeared to be well-written, that is far beyond the limit of anything a modern day publisher would be able, economically, to accept.

I'm reminded of a letter of Mark Twain's where he told his correspondent, "I apologize for the length of this letter. I didn't have time to write a short one." Knowing what to leave out is not basic to a writer. We tend to write it all down, and then take out the unnecessary parts -- at least, I do.

And so I have developed a method for making cuts that I'd like to share here.

This is the method I use when cutting my own, admittedly verbose, work.

1. I look at each scene and ask myself what changes in it? What is the point? Is that point an important one? Or is it something that can be included in another scene, perhaps in a mini-flashback, by having a character remember that it happened earlier so the reader is informed without having to experience everything. If there is no point, or if the change is minor, then the scene goes, no matter how well-written.

2. After removing the scenes, make sure all the chapters are in one long file, then use your computer's search function to find the following words, making sure that both fore and aft parts of the sentence are needed:









in order, etc.

Anything that explains more about what was said. Basically less is more. Too much explanation is my downfall. Say what's necessary and leave out the window dressing.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent tutorial on how to "cut the fat" and get to the meat of the story, Arline!

    Marvin D Wilson