Cutting 20,000 words, the easy way

Here’s an observation on revising a manuscript. I finished a rewrite last week of my crime novel, cutting 20,000 words in the course of a two month front-to-back revision. This was so I could hand the draft—it’s either the fifth, or maybe the seventh; I’ve lost track—off to my agent Dawn Dowdle for her edit. My work on the rewrite was informed by Dawn’s editing guidelines and everything I learned as a student in the Crime Fiction Academy this year.

I next went back to edit my two-page synopsis to see that I needed to change because the book had gone from 91,000 words to 71,000. The answer: nothing. In other words, when I wrote the synopsis six months ago, none of the material I ended up cutting, including one long flashback and an even longer scene in the final third of the book, was worth including in the synopsis. All those words had no impact on the movement of the story. And some part of me already knew it back then.

Next time, I will listen to my synopsis. I could have saved a bunch of work, and the painful banging of my head into my desk.

2 Responses to “Cutting 20,000 words, the easy way”

  1. Charlie


    Did you write the synopsis right off the bat? Or after a draft or two?


  2. rich

    Charlie: I wrote the synopsis after all the drafts (five or so) I did before I submitted to agents. I doubt even the kind of writer who does detailed outlines could write a synopsis until the manuscript was done.


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