1. plothog
    Offline

    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2013
    Messages:
    639
    Likes Received:
    514
    Location:
    England

    Does your work end up longer or shorter after editing?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by plothog, Feb 28, 2014.

    I'm wondering if my first draft of my novel is likely to end up longer or shorter after editing.

    On the one hand, there's things which will make my novel longer: Places where I need to to show rather than tell, places where I need to add some foreshadowing, character reactions, characterisation etc.
    On the other hand, there's things to remove: Sentences which don't add anything interesting or useful, whole bits of subplot which didn't go anywhere, rambling sentences, crutch words etc.

    From what editing experience I have, I'm expecting my word count to drop marginally, but I'm not sure for something of novel length.

    What are other peoples experiences? I can imagine it varies from person to person. The answer might even change as people get more experienced. Still it might be interesting to discuss.
     
  2. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,912
    Likes Received:
    10,104
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Depends. If I'm happy with the scene and I'm just fine tuning, then usually shorter. If I'm not happy with the scene, there's a good chance scrapping and replacing is going to happen. That can end in a longer scene than was originally written.
     
    KatieValino likes this.
  3. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,728
    Likes Received:
    4,826
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    Revised versions are almost always longer for me. I usually don't pare things down on a word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence level. If something doesn't fit, I delete entire scenes - sometimes entire chapters. But I almost always write more material to bridge the gaps, and it's longer than what I deleted. I'm always expanding, not contracting.

    I can't tell you how many short stories I've started that wound up becoming novelettes or novellas, or, in one or two cases, whole novels. (In those cases, I've put them aside; I'm not ready to take on another novel these days.) I'm struggling right now with a short story that suddenly blossomed into a novel, so it's on the back burner. Too bad; I love the idea of it.

    When I was taking Gotham fiction courses, we had strict word-length limits we had to adhere to in work we submitted. That was very rough for me. I had a hell of a time coming up with ideas that were small enough to fit into short stories. When I'm told not to go over 5,000 words, and every instinct I have tells me the story should be 12,000 words or even 15,000 words, it's damn hard!

    I hate the process of trying to take 500 words out of a story. I had one that was 5,500 words and I had to do just that. I went through, removing adjectives, excessive "thats", rewriting twelve-word sentences into ten-word sentences, etc. That's horrible, painful drudgery, and it does not improve the work. It's like wearing clothes that are too small and belts too tight - I feel like I can't breathe.

    I'm not a fan of the "less is more" philosophy. As Stanley Elkin once said, "Less is less, more is more, and enough is enough!"
     
  4. David K. Thomasson
    Offline

    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2013
    Messages:
    341
    Likes Received:
    122
    Location:
    Lynchburg, Virginia
    Don't worry about longer or shorter. Concentrate on better.
     
  5. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Does your work end up longer or shorter after editing?

    Yes.
     
    JetBlackGT and hvb like this.
  6. PurpleZombieAttack
    Offline

    PurpleZombieAttack New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2014
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    2
    Mine tend to end up shorter, to be quite honest. I have a tendency to ramble on and enter a sort of stream-of-consciousness writing mode even when it means I have overly wordy, redundant run-on sentences. After my ideas are there, I can reformat them so the unnecessary information is gone and everything I just wrote actually makes sense without boring anyone who's reading it. As such, my work ends up shorter yet better. It's never perfect, but that's just how writing is.
     
  7. Wild Knight
    Offline

    Wild Knight Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2013
    Messages:
    187
    Likes Received:
    32
    To quote (paraphrase) a game developing company that I can't remember the name of when asked why all of their games were long: "We don't know how to make short stories."
     
  8. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,995
    Likes Received:
    5,503
    Mine generally ends up much shorter. I burble on for paragraphs and realize that the idea can be distilled into two lines--or can be cut entirely and left implied.
     
  9. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,685
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    In the past, mine have invariably ended up shorter. However, in my current project, I have been doing a lot more editing as I go, so I'm really not sure. As @David K. Thomasson said, concentrate on making it better.
     
  10. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,728
    Likes Received:
    4,826
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    You're a Michener lover - keep his example in mind. If Alaska becomes too long, just take Journey out and publish it as a separate book. Thomas Wolfe worked that way, too. He always wrote way too much for one novel and his editor would cut away tons of it. Wolfe would take the unused portion and make it the basis of another novel. Never throw anything away! :)
     
  11. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    It depends on how you write. Mine tend to be longer, because I write pretty lean first drafts and always have to develop a lot of things further. There are writers who write veeery extensive first drafts with everything they can come up with, and then cut it down to the most relevant during revision.
     
    plothog likes this.
  12. Bjørnar Munkerud
    Offline

    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2012
    Messages:
    393
    Likes Received:
    140
    Location:
    Oslo, Norway
    Shorter.

    1. I usually add at least most of the stuff that's supposed to make the final cut the first time around, and then remove the not-so-good parts when I read back what I've written instead, being nkore critical the second time around, preferring to continue writing and look through what I've written later rather than work on every sentence for ages until it's perfect.
    2. I edit out irrelevant, outdated and redundant etc. passages.
    3. I simplify my writing when editing, to clarify what I mean, which tends to decrease the word count slightly.
     
  13. plothog
    Offline

    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2013
    Messages:
    639
    Likes Received:
    514
    Location:
    England
    I suspected that might be the case. My writing tends to vary in this respect. I've got sections of my writing where things are a bit brief, sometimes I've not got into my scenes so well, especially when life gets in the way.( Four kids, can mean, periods of continual interruptions and no writing flow)
    When I do get to write uninterrupted, I do find a lot more to say, but I'm more likely to go off on unimportant tangents. I'll have to wait and see if I have a net gain or loss in words.
     
  14. Thomas Kitchen
    Offline

    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2012
    Messages:
    1,258
    Likes Received:
    422
    Location:
    I'm Welsh - and proud!
    As many have said, it depends on the scene and the impact I want it to have, but generally the work ends up being longer. This is because I'm good at dialogue but bad at narrative, and so I have to flesh that out to help readers understand what's going on (unless, as I've said, little to no narrative is required for the scene to work).
     
  15. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,821
    Likes Received:
    7,345
    Location:
    Scotland
    Shorter. Definitely shorter. I always over-write. At first I though this was a bad habit that I could break, but I've since discovered that it's necessary for me to write this way, to create emotional clout. When I write spare, it just comes out flat.

    However, editing afterwards to get rid of dreck is fun, and I am able to salvage the emotion, while getting rid of excess adjective/adverb flurries and melodrama. My current novel is less than 2/3 of my original draft. And I'm still paring words.

    Some people write spare, then flesh things out afterwards. We're all different, aren't we?
     
  16. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    generally, just better...
     
  17. FrankieWuh
    Offline

    FrankieWuh Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2014
    Messages:
    191
    Likes Received:
    107
    Location:
    Deepest Darkest UK
    Always shorter because my discipline improves over time with WIP. With the first draft I'm like a kid running about in a field of corn, because it's fun and just for the hell of it. During the editing it's like I have more of a purpose and the writing becomes more about technique and honing the story.
    But I still have fun with that too - but it's more adult-serious fun than big-kid-laughing-like-a-loon fun :)
     
  18. JetBlackGT
    Offline

    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    465
    Likes Received:
    158
    Location:
    Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States
    It used to get longer. Then I began to spend more time fleshing out the scenes as I went. Now I trim them down and cut out parts that aren't necessary.

    Kill your darlings. :)
     

Share This Page