The Massacre of Excessive Words

When I first finished my current manuscript it weighed in at a whopping 127,000 words.

Uh huh, imagine an agent’s face if THAT had popped into their in-box.

Of course, we all know that an unpublished writer is not going to get a book that big published without the help of several miracles and, since miracles seem to be in short supply around here,  the only thing to do is edit the snot of it.

At first it seems utterly impossible,  when you’re looking at your newly completed masterpiece you KNOW that every single word is completely vital to the story, ‘It’s perfect, why should I ruin it?’

Sit back, take a breath, and wait for reality to hit you in the jaw. There, did it hurt? Because it will soon. Yes, there is a masterpiece in their somewhere, but at the moment it’s lost in that trash heap of words. Beginners don’t want to hear this, I certainly didn’t (for the record, I still consider myself a beginner but at least I know the rules of the game now), and all that editing is a pretty daunting task. Then you dive in and start slicing and dicing, you’ve removed irrelevant scenes but your word count is still way too high, what now?

I’m going to share some of the tricks I’ve learned in the hopes of helping other people who are struggling to clean up their novel and cut down that pesky, all-important word count.


‘… She thought silently.’  Well, duh, that is how most people think. Sure she could be speaking her thoughts out loud but in full context it’s obvious she’s not, I don’t need to say this,  the reader has already figured it out.

Yawned tiredly, said out loud … you get the picture. Ditch those redundant words!


“I don’t like editing!” She exclaimed loudly.

“I know, but it really is necessary,” he said soothingly.

“I’d rather shovel manure then change one more sentence,” she muttered darkly.

It sounds pretty silly, doesn’t it? Sometimes you really just don’t need those extra adjectives, if we are doing our jobs as writers properly then the reader should be able to pick up on the characters’ emotions without us telling them so bluntly.  By no means am I saying get rid of every case of this but I bet once you start looking you’ll realize you may have overused this sort of phrase, I did! 


While we’re on that subject do you really need to add that after every bit of conversation? If it’s just two characters then the reader already knows who’s talking. if you can do without it here and there then ditch it! (Be careful though, there’s nothing more annoying for a reader than losing track of who says what and having to go back and read again)


“Did you like the movie Helen?”

“I did Jack, what shall we do now?”

“Well, Helen, we should probably get back to editing.”

“No, Jack, anything but that!”

People don’t actually speak like that, thank goodness because I would be in real trouble when I tried to remember names. It’s annoying to read but it’s pretty easy to fall into this habit while writing.  DITCH ‘EM.


 Did you know that every time you use ellipsis it adds three words to your word count? Or at least it does on my word program, I suppose it could vary on others but still, why risk it? They can be really annoying when over used anyway. Sure they’re handy when a character trails off into la la land … what was I saying? Oh, right, I guarantee that you can get rid of at least 90% of those ellipses and your writing will be better off for it.

Following these guidelines have helped me clean up my writing and knock my word count down (but is it low enough? We’ll see) and I hope they’ll be helpful to others. And when you’re feeling overwhelmed just remember;

Totally true!