Why You Need to Cut Words Out of Your Manuscript
Editing your own writing can be hard; in fact, it usually seems impossible. You’ve toiled so long to put your words on paper, and now you need to erase some of them? To unlock your story’s full potential, you might even have to cut out scenes you painstakingly developed or characters you’ve grown to love. It’s tough, no doubt about it.
However, editing is necessary to trim the fat so that only the meat of the story remains. Mind you, that’s just the content aspect of editing—you’ll also need to polish the prose itself, but spotting your own typos is extremely difficult, and as the writer, it’s nearly impossible for you to identify confusing passages.
To make things easier for you, we’ve put together the four main reasons to edit your manuscript. By understanding why you need to edit (sometimes ruthlessly!), you will hopefully feel more in control of your story.
Remember that you can always get our professional editors to polish your content.
So, why do you need to ax words even if it pains you?
1. The story may start with the wrong scene
The beginning of a story needs to grab readers and entice them to continue. A great way to do this is by jumping into the middle of the action. However, it’s almost impossible to know exactly what that action is when you’ve just started writing! You haven’t fleshed out the story yet, so chances are that where you decide to begin the story isn’t the best option.
You don’t have to start in the middle of a high-speed police chase or have another scene with extreme action to draw the reader in. What you’re looking for with this first scene is engagement and intrigue, not action per se. You should use whatever strategy works best for your story as long as it entices the reader to keep going. It can be hard to figure out the best approach before you’ve finished the manuscript.
So, what do you do? You learn to love editing, of course! This way, you can simply start your story because you know you’ll come back to it later. When you’re ready for that second draft, be aware that you’ll likely need to delete paragraphs (or even large sections) from your beginning. You might even decide to delete the entire opening sequence and start with a later scene from the story.
2. The pacing may be off
Writing a first draft means throwing a lot of ideas onto the page, hoping most of them will work in service of the story. Of course, not all of them will. Moreover, all of those extra sentences and scenes are hurting the pace of your novel. Some side plots may detract from the main theme without bringing much value, and certain scenes may feel out of place in between suspense-filled sections that keep the reader voraciously flipping through the pages.
When you’re ready to revise, try to look at the words through the eyes of your audience. Where do things slow down? What parts do you want to skip? Are there scenes not moving the story forward? These are the parts to delete.
3. There are filler words that detract from the story
Filler words may pad the length, but they add nothing to the story. You’ll end up with needlessly long sentences where the writing is repetitious, reliant on cliches, and likely confusing, with tangents that make it hard to follow the important stuff. Every word in your book should be there for a reason, and “increasing the word count” isn’t a valid reason. Overly verbose and redundant writing won’t do your plot justice.
To spot filler words, go through a sentence and ask yourself, “If I got rid of that word, would the meaning change?” Unless there is a valid reason for keeping the word—as in it evokes a certain atmosphere, helps describe the setting, or sets the right pace—then delete it. Make sure you’re not overdoing it, but ultimately, all the words in your book should be in service of the story.
4. The flow of the writing may be disrupted
If you don’t cut out those filler words, they’ll likely disrupt the flow of your writing.
Most books need a mix of long and short sentences. While this isn’t a requirement, having a good balance can create great rhythm. Too many long sentences can drag on and muddle the story. Short sentences can be great for adding more action or suspense. You shouldn’t be counting the words in each sentence, and you don’t need to pay attention to sentence length in your first draft. When you edit your writing, however, make sure the sentences flow well together.
If you’re struggling with the flow, read the paragraph out loud. This helps highlight words that are getting in the way.
While it may be tough to chop off words you spent so much time putting together, the reader will never know anything’s been deleted. If cutting something out improves the flow or pacing, all your audience will know is that they’ve read something good. At the end of the day, their experience is what determines the success of your novel.
Still having a hard time parting with your words? Get our professionals to edit your sentences, and they’ll tighten up the writing to make your story the best it can be.