Losing words, gaining meaning

I was recently debating whether or not I should write up a tight little synopsis for book 2 of the novel I have out in full to an agent. You know, just in case the agent didn’t make a clerical error asking for my novel and calls me up sometime to discuss my plans for future books in that world. A wonderful, supportive writer friend of mine pointed out that editorial changes to book 1 might make what I have planned for book 2 completely defunct.

A very valid point, that. Editorial changes to a novel can be rather sweeping, and when you write the kind of stories I do that are very organic in structure, a tiny change can be pretty damned sweeping anyway.

Case in point, when I wrote the synopsis for Code of the Hunters I decided the ending needed something. Something was missing. I took a close look and realized that adding a little scene at the end would give a much more satisfying ending and actually give a better lead-in to book 2. So I added 300 words to the end of the story, proofed it again, tucked a few words on the synopsis to match, and sent my submissions packet.

Meanwhile, I’d been working diligently on book 2, which I put on hold to make that little change and polish up the subs packages for book 1. Those 300 additional words changed the story just enough that the entire 18k I had written so far of book 2 no longer fit. I tossed it out.

Yep. 18k words, and over a month’s worth of work, down the hole in a single flush.

I know a lot of people who have trouble cutting words, let along ditching an entire fifth of a novel.I guess my take on the matter is that I have a big vocabulary. I can string words together all day long, every day. Words are just words. I’d trade 300 quality words for 18k of quantity in a heartbeat and never look back.

I haven’t done an official count, but if I had to guess, I’d say that I wrote at least 250k words on my book 1, and cut and scrapped and pasted until it stood at the final count of 83k.

The words aren’t my babies. They aren’t even my darlings. They are hired to do a job, and if they don’t, they get the ax. I’m GOOD at tossing words that don’t work. The story I want to tell is more important to me than any number of words.

How do you feel about cutting and gutting the words?

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3 Responses to Losing words, gaining meaning

  1. Ester Mish says:

    my only drawback with cutting words is the (stupid) fear that the words to replace them won’t be as good **rolling eyes**.

  2. I hate to throw out words. I squirrel them away, and watch for places where they can be reused – so far, once as a short story, and once as the inspiration of a new novel. Now I need to flush the first half of my first novel. Still thinking about it – Oh! the pain! 😉

    Great post! I’m linking back to you.

  3. Arizela says:

    There is that. 🙂 I generally write the replacements before I toss the garbage.

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