Jan 19, 2017

Slashing Word Count is Much Like Losing Weight

Resource: Pixabay.com
By Susan Allred

About eight years ago, I was on a quest. Over the course of my marriage, I'd managed to pile on an extra 130 lbs. I was tired of being winded after climbing the stairs, or holding my breath to tie my shoes, or avoiding sports all together. I wanted my life back!

I began working out, eating right, and learning new skills to become healthy.  It was torturous at first. There were many habits I'd grown to enjoy, and foods I did not want to give up.  I'd lulled myself into a sense of complacency by saying I was fine the way I was. In the beginning, I was able to lose lots of weight by making minor changes. But as the pounds came off, it took more work to earn the same losses. I had to stay focused.

Soon, responses from friends, family, and strangers began to pour in, driving my desire to push onward.  After several months, I'd lost nearly 90 pounds and 8 pant-sizes. I was a new, improved woman with a renewed sense of purpose.

I've spent the first weeks of 2017 cutting nearly 20,000 words from my manuscript. That's more than 25% of my story.  It was a story that, up until October, I thought was perfectly fine just the way it was. There were characters and vanity scenes I didn't want to give up, but I fooled myself into thinking it was fine to keep them. Eventually I acquiesced. Quit frankly, I was tired of writing this book, and I wanted to write other stories.

In the beginning, I was able to make major cuts by taking out scenes, or deleting characters who had no purpose. Those changes resulted in massive losses to my word count. But there came a point in my journey when I had to work harder.  Each sentence was examined, and every gesture considered, until I lost 19,763 words and had a tighter, more focused story.

My new and improved manuscript is the result of hours of work, learning new skills, and a willingness to remove things that didn't enriching the story. Learning to cut words mirrors that of losing weight.  The journey is often agonizing, but results in a tighter story, more praise, and a quality work that we can be proud of.

Is getting rid of the extra baggage easy? Not by a long shot. But I promise you, it will be worth every ounce of effort you put into it.


  1. I'm trying to lose that weight well I call it get fit myself lol. Wonderful analogy. We do get favorite foods and favorite scenes we have to fight ourselves to get rid of.

  2. Love your analogy. I can relate.


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