Word Count: Tips to Cut it Out!


“Your novel is too long.”

“Your story would be stronger if you tightened the plot and eliminated the fluff.” 

“If you bring it down to a more appropriate YA word count, I’d be happy to take another look.”

Have you ever heard agents, editors, or critique partners say these things? Have friends or beta readers who have not finished your story because it’s too long?

If so, we have some advice for you.

First, a simple truth: Feedback and criticism are good. Teachers, agents, editors, critique partners? They know a thing or two, and we should listen.

Agents know what sells, what catches editors; they read for a living and they can envision an appropriate word count. Besides, the industry has standards. We might be able to push them a little, just not too much.

If you were, (or are now) like me, and had a manuscript floating just above the appropriate word count, I’d like to share what helped me get through the BIG cut.

I admit, the whole “cut 20-30k” thing was a bit intimidating before I started, whereas now I slice and slash and delete without mercy. Now as I write other novels, word-count cutting goals are entirely reachable and not frightening. I know I can accomplish them, and I even know now how to prevent going over them!

Now after lots of cutting on previous stories, I read each project eager and hungry for words. I want to tighten the plot, to bring together the heart of the story. I tediously read each line, or study each sub plot. The pulse of the story becomes stronger, and I cut if I see something that is not necessary or strong enough. And I see my story become more alive, more whole, more enticing, more lovable.

The Big Cut: Cutting Big will take some consideration. Prepare yourself: You’ll have to rethink different plot lines, perhaps cut a character or scenes you like.

1. Cut: Any scene that doesn’t spur the plot forward or give us new necessary information about the plot or character is cut-worthy. *I cut about 4 scenes like that. I even cut out a mother dying!

2. Pacing: After cutting word count in a long novel, it could make your story read faster, stay on track to its goal, and really help the reader connect to the heart of the story – which is what you want.

The Repetition Cut:

3. Go through your novel and look for anything that is repeated information. Any repetitions at all. Is a character repeating the same thing in a different way? Did you mention how strong that boy was multiple times? Cut it. Did you mention the character is a fast runner, and then tell us again when we see him run? Cut it. Are you repeating parts of the plot to ensure the reader will understand? Cut it. The readers will put it together.

The Passive Voice Cut: Although this does not cut extreme amount of words, it can be powerful.

4. Using active voice can tighten a novel a lot. Example, “I was sitting.” The majority of the time you can cross that out and write “I sat.” Try it.

It’s amazing how much fluff you can cut with these few self editing tips to cut word count.



Nova, signing off.

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