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How to change your first novel project (a checklist)



This post will share how I did it. What kind of cuts have I made, the other adjustments that have been made, the mental processes involved.

Before going into detail (and these things only concern the details), three things. This was my ninth published novel and my thirteenth or fourteenth book. A first draft of a new writer is often able to easily lose 10%. It is not uncommon for 20-30% to be a more precise goal.

New rule of writers n
Be ambitious when it comes to cutting material.
You're not aiming to lose the content, necessarily – just verbosity.
Can a 12-word sentence become only a sentence of 9 words?
It's like cutting 30,000 words from a 120-word novel!

Secondly, the draft I delivered to my publisher for the first time had already been changed. Not just for the length, but for the flow, the atmosphere, the logic of the plot, the characterization, the dialogue, the beauty, everything. Although the emphasis in this post is on how to cut a novel, this post is just a small part of the whole process.

New rule of writers n
When it comes to the self-editing process, everything is fine.
Everything.
Plot, characters, pacing, twists, settings. Everything.
There is nothing sacred. Every little element must contribute – or be changed.

Thirdly, it is worth mentioning that the narrator in what follows is my little Welsh detective, Fiona Griffiths, who, according to one critic, "is one of the most memorable narratives in the genre". In other words, they like short sentences, cut out verbs or pronouns where it would be more normal to keep them. That is her voice. You do not have to follow the example. In other words, the decisions I take must be taken in that Griffithsian context.

Your decisions will be made in the context of your voice, your characters, your market, your story.

New rule of writers n. 3
Do not follow my rules.
Create your own!

Enough preamble. Let's have a look at some cuts. Again, the examples are taken from my actual changes to my current manuscript. . .

Example Edit: Description of cliff-based scramble


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