Sunday, July 23, 2023

The Novel: Cutting


I continue to cut the novel. The goal for the first draft was to have a coherent continuous narrative. The goal for the second draft is, primarily, a shorter coherent continuous narrative. I think it's best if I already have the size under control before I go after other problems. I may discover that I'm wrong, but, hey, learning experience.

I've been tracking its size. When I finished the first draft, in late April, it was 155.5K. This was after removing probably a good 80K of scenes already. (All in a "scrap bucket" project. I'm not deleting anything.) I want it down to 90K, but for this round I'm aiming for 110-120, after which I will Evaluate.

After a few downs and a few ups, it's at 129.9K. A fair bit of that was removed from just the first quarter--first quarter, plot-wise; the novel divides itself into pretty clear quarters in my head. That seems optimistic, except the first quarter has always been the flabbiest, with meandering scenes that just have a few essential points, so they're easy to either pare down to those points, or kill entirely and assign their jobs to other scenes. I'm under the delusion that the remaining three quarters are already fairly tight. I hope I find out I'm wrong. 

I realize that this post's title implies that it's about cutting, and, really, it's just communicating the score so far. I will hopefully engage in some more detailed burbling later (Cutting subplots! Cutting scenes! Removing words from existing sentences with tweezers!) but I'm trying to maintain the goal of keeping this blog awake, so I will be posting this soon.

Speaking of goals, I have written two pieces of fairly useless flash fiction in the three days since I posted my plan to write one a day. That's pretty good, compared to my usual record for writing resolutions.

Actually, that wasn't the resolution, was it? The resolution was half an hour a day. Somehow the idea that I have to finish a first draft crept in. I think an either/or resolution works. If I finish a first draft of a scene or tiny story in less than half an hour, I'm done. If I spend half an hour working on any piece of fiction of short story or shorter length, I'm done. Then I can go cut more from the novel, or even write a scene with my two main characters arguing over a meal and dump it directly in the scrap bucket, if I want to. I love writing those scenes.

That is all.

Image: Wikimedia Commons


  1. I looove the idea of input (time) based goals rather than output (x pages, etc) for writing and similar tasks. But somehow I just can't make myself stick to them. I recently wrapped a project translating a superrrrr long book I hated, and working on it was like pulling teeth. I kept trying to make myself do the "put in one hour a day" thing (even set up jars of marbles representing hours, to transfer one marble per hour into the other jar) I just couldn't. Ended up sticking to "sit down and finish ten pages" type grind sessions and a final all-nighter each quarter. It just feels so much more satisfying to look at the discrete number of things you've finished. Same reason I can apparently post either 0 or 4 blog posts a day with no in between.

    1. Yep. I always think the time-based goals will work, but, nope. I suppose that's why my brain translated it into one FINISHED piece of flash fiction, without consulting me. The goal that worked for me while drafting was "One new polished scene every three days." I think there was a reason why I didn't make it "One new polished piece of flash fiction every three days," but I can't think of what it was, so maybe I should go to that.