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Cutting words.

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Cutting words.

Postby Kwillz » Sun Aug 27, 2006 10:47 pm

So you've just finished your last draft. The story is great, the dialog is good, and there isn't a single non-essential scene. But the word count is too much for this e-magazine that would be perfect for your story (you know this because of all your research).

So how do you go about shortening your word-count? Do you cut out bits of dialog, or do you shorten the prose?
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Postby Ariel » Mon Aug 28, 2006 4:37 pm

I love prose. Cut the dialogue. Though someone else might tell you the opposite. :?

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Postby Bibsy » Mon Aug 28, 2006 6:00 pm

I'd say a little of both. For me, when trying to cut down on word count, adverbs and adjectives are usually the first to go since it's so easy to use more of them than you really need. And depending on how tight your prose is to begin with, there might be places where you can change a few words ("he walked with slow steps") to something more consise ("he trudged" or "he plodded").
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Postby Bmat » Mon Aug 28, 2006 6:52 pm

I vote for axing the dialogue. I also like the idea of removing extra words that can be expressed as one word.

Perhaps you should try removing a scene or two and having a friend read it. The friend could say whether the story seemed to be missing something.
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Postby Kwillz » Mon Aug 28, 2006 8:38 pm

Thanks for the advice. Why didn't I think of the adverb thing before?
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Postby Mikira » Tue Aug 29, 2006 9:27 am

I can't remember the whole list, but some of the "Empty" words to look for are:

That, and, (Forms of to be, such as: was)

Look for those words in your prose. You should be able to eliminate most of them without changing the meaning of a sentence.
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Postby eleika » Mon Sep 11, 2006 7:57 pm

I vote for ...

a) sending it anyway and seeing if they'll make an exception ...

or b) finding another publisher.

You never know.
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Postby dragonvash » Sun Sep 17, 2006 8:51 am

For me it's definitely adverbs that sneak in without being noticed in the beginning and adjectives that aren't essential. I guess it depends upon the size of the cut needed. See what you can explain by actions and cut down on the description maybe?
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Postby Scriven » Sun Dec 03, 2006 8:09 am

The rule I follow when I do cutting, especially for a short story, is: Do I need this? There is always scenes that can be cut.

I review for Tangent and I see a lot of short stories that just bog down in unnecessary plot and character points that really don't serve the story. I maintain there are whole scenes that could be cut from almost anyone's short.

Rather than cutting dialogue over narrative the question you should be asking is "Can I get my characters to say/do, what I'm saying in the narrative." If you have something "He loved her so much his heart broke," try to get your character to say something that illustrates that and you will have a quicker and more powerful story.

Also, no magazine makes exceptions for stories significantly over their word limit unless that author is a star and likely to bump newsstand sales. The first thing readers check for is "Did the writer follow our guidelines," if not the proposal goes back unread.
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Postby Neurolanis » Sat Dec 09, 2006 8:02 am

Well, I love dialog, when it's natural. But then I love imaginative description more...
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Postby aldan » Sat Dec 09, 2006 5:17 pm

I agree with Scriven, in that so often a writer will try to 'televise' a story by being too descriptive. One need not always describe the color of a character's shoes, socks, underwear, blouse, skirt/pants/shorts, hat, glasses, and all that. It's usually better to have a character's voice (attitude)and one or two 'signature' pieces of clothing do that. Read some Poe, and you'll probably get the idea.
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Postby Neurolanis » Sun Dec 10, 2006 9:25 am

Guess I'm guilty of 'televising' then. :lol: I've always been a visual writer, as for a long time I made comics and gradually switched to writing alone. I see so much detail and want to report it all to the reader, but in the editing/rewriting I might be forced to snip some of that away. :(
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