Is your novel too long?

Has your agent/publisher asked you to shorten your novel by thousands of words? #writetip

Here’s what I did when my agent, Margaret Hart, suggested I pick up the pacing near the end of my first novel. I ended up cutting 6,000 words, but this technique will work for more/less words.

I re-read each scene and asked myself why I wrote it? Was is critical to the story? In no, I removed it. If yes, what was in the scene that I needed? In one scene I was revealing a piece of critical information. I added that information to another scene and cut the original scene. Poof, there went 1,000 words.

Next I analyzed each minor character. Could I combine two characters into one? This worked for cutting about 500 words.

Following that, I re-read the narrative and made notes on how I described characters or setting. By making notes, it enabled me to see where I had repeated myself. Another 500 words gone.

You can see I started big and worked my way to the little cuts. I think it made my novel a better story.

Any suggestions on how you do this?

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2 thoughts on “Is your novel too long?

  1. I am in the middle of doing the same thing. I’d like to get my 119,000 word novel down to 100,000. No one has told me to, but I want it to be more marketable, and as we all know, long is a tough sell. I am basically reading every scene, and doing a lot of what you say up above. Mainly, I am saying “How does this move my story a step forward to the finish line” In many cases, I am finding they are just nice scenes, and I need to cut them. It’s painful though. Some of the scenes add depth to characters, but I know they have to go. So much work… deleted (Well, cut and put into a “cut” folder — I never delete completely)

    I am finding the small, important idead I can incorporate into more important scenes. In the end, I am sure I’ll be happy. Right now, though, I am reeling in agony.

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  2. Maybe the agony will add emotion to your novel. You never know. I have a scene that I have put in and cut out of three novels. I guess I like the scene, but it doesn’t fit. Thinking I should turn it into a short story. Then, at least I get to use it. Good luck cutting.

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