Peter Jones – Author & Public Speaker

Official blog & website

5,497

4 Comments

redpenBack in July you may remember that I told you how, after six years, my novel is almost finished.

Oh my god how wrong you can be.

Let me bring you up to speed on a few things: At the time of writing I had an agent, who, having read the first three chapters, liked the book and wanted to see the rest. Which would have been fine if the rest was just sitting around ready to be sent – but, it wasn’t. Hence the flurry of activity to finish it, and the aforementioned blog post.

A few weeks after typing the words THE END, the agent got back to me and invited me to ‘pop into her offices’ for a chat. There I sat, surrounded by books written by her other clients, whilst she told me that she really liked my manuscript – but she’d like it a whole lot more if I made some changes – namely;

  • lose a character,
  • add two more chapters,
  • bring the word count down to 90,000 words.

The first two items were achieved within a few days, but the third… well I’ve been struggling. As my novel weighed in at 115,000 words I was faced with having to cut 25,000.

This is what I tried first

  1. made a list of every scene in the book (actually I had this already – a great tip that I picked up many years ago)
  2. identify any scene that didn’t move the plot on – cut it
  3. identify any scene in my heart of hearts I didn’t actually like – try and cut it
  4. identify the wordier scenes – trim them agressively.

Two weeks ago I was down to 103,000 words. Still 13,000 left to cut.

Out of desperation I printed off the entire manuscript (something that my friend Wendy told me to do from the off), sat down with a red pen, and read the whole thing looking for anything that could go by the wayside, and a weeks later I was down to 97,000 words.

I’d be depressed if it wasn’t for the following
– I have an inch thick pile of pages covered in red pen that I’m working through (probably another 1000 words in there)
– I have a list of seven scenes that I could cut (though god help me I really don’t want to)
– the book is actually better.

And that’s the bit that’s really taken me by surprise.

Weeks ago my friend Della Galton told me my book would be better for the level of cutting I was embarking upon – and by golly she was right. Somehow, the very act of taking out the weaker words, scenes, and in a couple of cases whole chapters, has distilled what was left, and made for a much stronger story.

But please God I hope my agent doesn’t want me to lose any more. As of this morning I’ve still got 5,497 words to find.

Advertisements

Author: Peter Jones

Peter Jones started professional life as a particularly rubbish graphic designer, followed by a stint as a mediocre petrol pump attendant. After that he got embroiled in the murky world of credit card banking. Fun times.   Nowadays, Peter spends his days writing, or talking about writing. He’s written three novels; a Rom-Com (Romantic Comedy), A Crim-Com (Crime Comedy), and a Rom-Com-Ding-Dong (A sort-of Romantic-ish Comedy, with attitude). He’s currently working on his fourth novel, which - if it’s a musical - he’ll no doubt describe as a Rom-Com-Sing-Song. (Spoiler: It isn’t).   He is also the author of three and a half popular self-help books on the subjects of happiness, staying slim and dating. If you’re overweight, lonely, or unhappy – he’s your guy.   Peter doesn’t own a large departmental store and probably isn’t the same guy you’ve seen on the TV show Dragons’ Den.  

4 thoughts on “5,497

  1. Great post. Love hearing about the process of writing and hearing how other writers deal with the mechanics. 25,000 words seemed an awful lot to lose. I read that Stephen King would expect to shave 10% from his first draft to his second, but 25K…ouch.

    Like

    • Hi Robert, tell me about it! 25,000 words amounted to 20% of the book! Still, I was amazed at how many words could be lost without impacting the story. It’s been a ‘learning experience’.

      Like

  2. Does that mean the whole lot will need proofreading again to check it still makes sense? 😉

    But yes, it’s great to hear about the writing process and I really hope you manage to shift those last 5497 words and the agent loves it!

    Like

    • You know, I wondered that very thing myself! I’m sure some grammatical hiccups will have crept back in there.
      I managed to get the book under 90,000 words and sent it back to the agent a couple of weeks back.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s