Lizzie Hamilton’s life as a pampered belle in the antebellum South is over. Alone and destitute due to the disintegration of her family’s fortunes, she makes the mistake of trusting a handsome but unprincipled professional gambler whose silver-tongued promises lead only to disgrace and virtual servitude.
Question: How do you cut a manuscript? Is there an easy way to do it?
Answer: There are several good ways. Many authors will say to drop a sub-plot; delete or combine characters with only a background role; OR to look for scenes where nothing CHANGES and delete those.
But you asked what I do. And one of my biggest failings is that I tend to overwrite, and overexplain. I don't trust my reader to "get it" enough. So my own method differs from those I have been taught by excellent teachers over the years.
First I use the "search" function to look for words like:
and I make sure that what comes after them is really something new. If it's "already been said" (thank you Alice Orr, for warning me about my own bad habits)... if it's clear without any added explanation, I delete the explanation.
NEXT I SEARCH for prepositions, and see if the following phrase is one the sentence can do without. In my own work, I have often found that I add prepositions to make sure I've been clear, when actually I've already said all that needed to be said and I'm just not trusting my reader enough to know they will understand.
List of common prepositions:
LAST BUT NOT LEAST, I search for ly to find all the adverbs. (Thank you Carla Neggers for warning me about them: "Adverbs are lazy writing.")
My own most overused adverbs are:
and any ly adverb that follows a said. I usually delete them or replace them with an image so the reader can See it, rather than be told what happened or will happen. That's what teachers mean when they say "Show don't tell."