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  1. plothog

    plothog Contributor Contributor

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    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

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    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.
     
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  3. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    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

    David K. Thomasson Senior Member

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    Don't worry about longer or shorter. Concentrate on better.
     
  5. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Does your work end up longer or shorter after editing?

    Yes.
     
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  6. PurpleZombieAttack

    PurpleZombieAttack New Member

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    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

    Wild Knight Active Member

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    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

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    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

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    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

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    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

    Tesoro Contributor Contributor

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    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.
     
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  12. Bjørnar Munkerud

    Bjørnar Munkerud Senior Member

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    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

    plothog Contributor Contributor

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    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

    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    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

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    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

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    generally, just better...
     
  17. FrankieWuh

    FrankieWuh Active Member

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    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

    JetBlackGT Senior Member

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    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. :)
     

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