I’ve made the 1st draft of the 5th draft (got that?), and my cut file is getting close to the manuscript in size:
cut file: 62,000 words
manuscript: 86,000 words
My theory is that when the cut file equals the manuscript in size, the novel will be finished.
I instructed my last editor that I wanted the novel to be shorter. (Shorter is better, if it can be done.) I asked her to suggest things that could be cut: and she did, with excellent judgement.
Of course each cut hurts! I’m attached to these scenes, these characters. They’ve survived countless revisions.
It’s never easy, but it’s often essential.
I remember vividly making my first significant cut to my first novel (The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B.) I walked into the living room and announced to my husband, “I just cut my favourite scene.” I felt both stunned and proud. I felt it was a rite of passage—that in doing this, I’d somehow become a real writer.
The wonderful writer Penelope Fitzgerald routinely cut her manuscripts by half. She is a excellent model to follow.
So: be brave, get out the bandages and rye, and cut. Be ruthless. Your novel will be stronger for it.
[Just be sure to put all your cuts in a file; they make excellent compost.]
It looks like plans are going ahead for me to go to France next month to be interviewed for a documentary that’s being made about Josephine. Exciting!
How perfect that Ed, my wonderful Romanian typist, will have finished keyboarding the Trilogy for Sandra Gulland Ink (my e-publishing venture), so I will have reread them. It has been a Very Long Time since I’ve been in Josephine’s world.
It will be impossible for me to read the Trilogy without making some changes—but I promise not to cut.