Warning: this probably won’t be terribly interesting to most of you.
I took advantage of this past three-day weekend to get some work done on what I hope will be my last major revision to Bostonia, and so far I’ve succeeded in trimming about 800 words off its 123,000 (+/-) word count.
I know, 800 words doesn’t seem like a lot in-context, but it’s meaningful in another way.
One of my bad writing habits is over-writing; I spend a little too much time driving home a point that doesn’t need to be spelled out in such detail. Sometimes I spent a bit too much time establishing a setting when I should have been progressing the plot or characters, but more often my sin was making sure the reader always knew exactly what was on a character’s mind each and every time he spoke.
As I opined in a previous post about the “rules of writing,” I don’t agree with the philosophy that the only verb used on conjunction with dialog is “said.” I think other verbs can be used to convey mood without, as Elmore Leonard said, being intrusive. However, in Bostonia I noticed that I had this unfortunate tendency to overload dialog descriptors beyond just a simple colorful verb. I referred to the speaking character’s thoughts in the moment, facial expressions, reactions by other characters…I went overboard, a lot and frequently, and that’s amateurish writing.
So part of the weeding-out process is finding those instances and removing the offending text, and I’m betting such surgical removals have accounted for at least half of the 800 words I’ve jettisoned thus far — and I’m only about a third of the way through this draft.
This is not to say I’m strip-mining the manuscript to bring the word count down to a more manageable level, but I wouldn’t mind getting it down to at least 120,000 words. I wouldn’t want anyone reading this book to have the same reaction I had to, say, Dan Simmons’ The Terror, which had an awesome concept and was, for the first half of the book, gripping and atmospheric, but by the middle of the novel I spent a lot of time thinking, “Hurry up already!” Simmons could have lost 100 pages to improve the pacing and it would not have compromised the story.