Friday, March 4, 2011

Extreme Edits, Day One

I wrote 57,000 words for Nanowrimo this year. Now I am faced with the task of whittling it down to the good ones while simultaneously bulking my word count up to publishable levels. Without padding.

It's going to be tough, but at least for the editing part, I've found a method that works pretty well for me. So far, at least!

I hate deleting words. However, my first chapter opened with my character indulging in a totally pointless ramble that took up half a page and existed only to set up two or three mildly funny throwaway lines of inner monologue. When I opened the file today, I saw a note I had made:

Opening needs to be totally reworked so it is not self-indulgent twaddle.

I should point out I never use the word twaddle in real life and have nasty things to say about people who do.

I had to cut the entire rambling opening, which involved me lampooning a particular type of opening line I've always hated (on which more another day), a cat eating a toaster and the death of a non-existent character. Look, I'm from the same country as Flann O'Brien. There's probably hallucinogenics in the water or something.

But the 'self-indulgent twaddle' came to a full page, all told, and shaped the entire first conversation between Becky, my MC, and her flatmate Sammi. I couldn't cut it all. There might be a few bits in there worth saving (if so, they have yet to reveal themselves).

So I opened up a second file, and started rewriting, while keeping the original, untouched file open beside it on my desktop.

It's not revolutionary, but for those of us who like to retain words rather than cut them, it makes a lovely change from the jazzed-up line edit that writers often do when they know the structure is sound.

It also meant that when I came across a phrase I really liked, or a detail that I knew would be important later, I could slip it in. It works for me because if I just rewrote the scenes, I would obsess that I was losing the voice. I probably am losing some of the voice even as it is, but at least I can keep the little details and do some work on voice later on.

It's a start, anyway. Now to barrel through it quickly so I can write fun things again!

EDITED TO ADD: Guys, Sally Quilford has declared March 25th Anti-Conning Writers Day. If you've ever been conned out of money through writing, dealt with someone dubious or suspect, or paid for vanity publishing, and you want yo share your story, please join in on - details are on Sally's blog. You can also email your story to her anonymously for inclusion if you would prefer. If you've ever been conned, this is a great chance to alert others and help them to avoid the same thing.


  1. LOL@ "twaddle"!

    Good luck, Ellen.

  2. Cutting and revising is hard, but it's like weeding. If you weed out the cr*& you will get more room for the flowers you want to see blooming in the garden of your book.


  3. Ah, editing the NaNoWriMo novel! Almost as painful as writing it. I am totally going to participate this November!

  4. I don't know, I quite like edits. At least for the first five or six times :-)
    Have fun rewriting!


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