Revision Math

Kaylee spent most of the day screaming her head off (for at least thirty minutes straight, at one point), but she did nap long enough this morning for me get a large chunk of my longhand novel edits typed into the computer. I’ve been keeping track of how many words I’m cutting per chapter, the goal being to cut 10,195 words from the novel as a whole. I’m using Stephen King’s formula, of course: 2nd draft = 1st draft - 10%. This isn’t my second draft (more like my sixth or seventh, actually), but I think it’s a good enough goal just the same.

So, what have I discovered? Well, to begin with, I’ve learned that cutting text isn’t my natural inclination. Adding to text is.

I started off strong enough. In the first two chapters, I cut 597 words. That total represents all of the words I deleted, less the words I added. Those 597 words represented 6% of the total amount of words I wanted to cut. I was only two chapters in and I’d already cut six percent?!? I had reason to be optimistic.

The reasons for optimism didn’t last.

By the fifth chapter I was actual adding words to my total, three in that chapter, fifty-eight a few chapters after that, and twenty-seven the chapter after that! It quickly became apparent that there was no way this draft was going to work within King’s formula. And it wasn’t that I was all that adamant about it doing so. It was just that I’d hoped to get close. I’m aware that my novel was a bit long. I can only hope I’ve cut enough. So far, we’re at 1123 words cut. That’s a paltry 11% of the amount I’d hoped to cut in total, and I only have a quarter of the book left to go.

In the end, I think that however much I add or subtract isn’t the real issue. The real issue is whether or not the story flows better than it did before. With this revision, I believe it will. By the end of the month I am hoping to hand the thing off to four or five trusted readers (I’ll need to get around to actually asking them to read for me soon; So far I’ve only asked one person) and that’s going to be a blast. Nobody’s read the thing since my advisors read it during the spring of 2005. So I’m anxious to hear others think once again. Until then, I type and I cut, I type and I cut.