Posted by: Jodi | September 24, 2010

The Cutting Room Floor

These last four weeks I have done more work on Mr. Manuscript than the entire summer combined.  It feels so good to move forward once again, to make progress.  I am working in the murky middle of the book trying to connect the beginning to the end.  Most of the work is creating new chapters and scenes to replace the ones that I had to remove.  As I go in deeper I continue to find paragraphs and scenes that must be cut as well.  I know that the book  will be better for it, but it stinks to see how many weeks of work have ended up producing unusable text.

Before yWriter I tried to organize all these different files of the manuscript with a complicated folder system.  Rough drafts, ideas, first drafts, chapter outlines, cuttings, pictures, etc. were all filed in different folders.  Different drafts of the same scene ended up scattered across the hard drive.

It was a mess, it wasted my time, and it drove me nuts.  With yWriter I keep a chapter at the end of the book to hold all the cuttings.  yWriter allows me to label each scene with as much or as little information as I like.  Very useful when trying to find something later. Whole book drafts are now saved at the end of a revision, instead of at the completion of each scene.  It has streamlined the creative process and now I feel I have a clearer game plan for each step of the way.

I still regret choosing a genre that tends to be long-winded.  If only my first project was something shorter, a quick murder mystery perhaps;  then I might be getting closer to being done!  The manuscript now sits at 50,000 words and I’m guessing it might reach over 120,000 when I declare it finished.  At least 25,000 words have ended up on the cutting room floor and I know that there will be plenty more before I finish.

Progress, not perfection.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Yadda, yadda, yadda.

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Responses

  1. Glad to hear it, Jodi!

  2. It makes you wonder how Fitzgerald, Swift, Harper Lee, Hemmingway, Dickens, and Austen managed to crank out such delightful works . . . without the benefit of computers (and in some cases typewriters!).

    Good Luck.

    • I’m under the impression that they put much more thought into each phrase before spitting it out, knowing that editing typewritten and handwritten pages is hugely more time consuming than word processing programs.

  3. I know how you feel. On my last edit, I went from 84,000 words down to 64,000 and now, I’m having to build back again…bleh.

    • Glad to hear that it’s not totally uncommon to have to loose that much after an edit!

  4. Aw, 120k is nothin’ for adult fantasy! Don’t feel bad about what you’re cutting because it was all part of the process. Like Edison and his light bulb, you’ve just found a bunch of ways the story won’t work.

    • I’m caught between two camps, camp one thinks that standard adult fantasy should have a much greater word count because that’s the nature of the genre. Camp two feels that for an unpublished author agents get turned off if the manuscript is over 100,000. If my goal is to publish then for book one I’m leaning on the slimmer conservative side.

  5. For me, the sequences that are most frustrating and painful to write are ones that usually end up getting cut. If it didn’t flow out, it probably doesn’t belong in the story.

    Just a word of warning on your novel length: I’ve read a number of books on publishing written by agents and followed their blogs and web links. Many of them claim that a first-time novelist should keep it under 100,000 words. Longer manuscripts lead agents to think that you don’t know how to edit. Also, it’s more expensive to print and produce a long novel than a short one, and many publishers aren’t willing to invest that money in an unproven author.

    • I’ve heard that as well, seeing as I haven’t reached a final length I’m not dead set on word counts but the completion of a great story (I hope).

  6. My rough draft started at 130k, and I’ve littered the cutting room floor with 25k worth of subordinate clauses and redundant descriptions.

    Fantasy does get wider berth because world creation is a more complicated and intricate process, but I agree with targeting 100k for a first novel, even with fantasy. The second book can be longer once you’ve garnered a following.

    • Both you and Alannah have been doing some major editing and revising. I feel much better knowing that that’s just part of the game.

  7. Keep going, girl, Truman Capote advised that one use the scissors more frequently than the pencil.

    • Great quote, I’ll have to remember that.

  8. ywriter, huh? something to look into – sounds good. I too have endless copies of my ms. i’ve begun using track changes, but still messy….

    good luck!

    • Is track changes part of a word program or a separate program? I would like something that keeps tabs on the major changes in case I make a major judgement error.

      • it;s an edit feature within word. It’s under the tools icon. I find it really useful, because I edit with this feature, and then I come back and decide if my changes were better or not. I can choose to accept or decline the change which is displayed in a little bubble while the original text remains the same (until I accept the change of course>) does that make sense? anw, try it!

  9. Hi! I’m reading, not always commenting, but reading. Nice Blog!

    Could you add a link to read it on google reader? I use track changes- it’s part of word. Very helpful.

    I also name each section with “level one” capital letters that I can find in view- document map. That helps a lot to find the sections I’m working on or to move to a section that I need to add details into.

    I also cut about 10,000 words early in summer and then revised them back into the ms. Very common..esp if you wrote your first draft during nanowrimo. This year, i will be more careful!

    nice to meet you!
    Kris

    • Thanks for coming by! I’m trying to figure out how to add a google reader feed to the blog but time has been short, and my patience shorter. I’ll get it, but it might be a few days. I started using the headers that can be tracked to a table of contents but now I use a different program that does much of that automatically. My first drafts are always a disaster, I should be more careful as well.


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