Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Half the Sugar

I make really good chocolate chip cookies. In fact they are legendary on my soccer team. We don't go to a tournament without them.

They call for 1 1/2 cups of sugar (half brown - half white). A couple of months I decided to slowly cut back on the sugar every time I made them to see if less sugar would effect the taste. I'm down to one cup and I haven't noticed a difference.

Analogy time:
When I finished my first draft of my book it sat at 100,000 words. With each read through I trimmed off some extra sugar, so to speak. Now after many revisions later, I'm down to 65,877 words.

The delete button has become my friend.

For the past two weeks I've been working on chapters one and two, yet again. My most recent critique pointed out something that I hadn't really heard of but tend to do a lot. We've all heard of word echoes, but how about scene echoes. Apparently, I tend to tell the reader something and then show it.

So I've been cutting all those paragraphs that tell and keeping the ones that show.

How about you? What do you look to cut when trying to trim down your book?

15 comments:

Connie Keller said...

I have a tendency to underwrite. So my first drafts are much shorter than my second drafts because in my first drafts are very underdeveloped. But that said, I do echoes too. And they get the red pen of death. :)

Janet said...

Wow - you've cut a lot of 'sugar' to get down from 100,000 words. When I trim, I try to cut the 'tell' scenes, too - also, I tend to do a lot of dialogue tagging instead of making the dialogue shine (I guess that's a form of telling, too, eh?).

Great analogy - now I want a chocolate chip cookie!

Kate Coursey said...

That's an impressive amount of deleting! My book ended up at 97,000 words.....I wish it were shorter, but there wasn't much more I could trim. Apart from cutting entire scenes (which I often do), I sometimes find that the final two sentences at the end of my paragraphs aren't necessary. I guess I sometimes use those sentences to summarize or clarify what's already happened in the paragraph, and it makes equal sense without them.

Elana Johnson said...

I had a lot of words in my first book too. And my friend gave me some similar advice. She said I tend to say the same thing in threes. She advised me to go through the MS and find the strongest of the three, and cut the other two.

I got rid of a lot of words that way.

Good luck with your editing!

Christina Lee said...

I underwrite, but I echo too sometimes! Good advice!

Melissa Marsh said...

On my last revision, I cut 10,000 words out. It was slightly painful, but necessary. I think I tended to look for slow spots, places that just didn't move the story forward, dialogue that didn't need to be included, etc.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

Oh my. You have such strength and courage to cut like this.

Angela Cothran said...

Genius! I love a great metaphor.

L.T. Elliot said...

Hmmm. That critiquer has a smart idea there! I'd never considered "echoes" before. I'm going to integrate that in my own self-editing. That's brilliant!

I've never tried cutting down the sugar in my cookies before but maybe I shall. I bet they're yummy!

Martin Willoughby said...

I do it the other way round. I write sparsely and then add in the description.

What can I say, I'm a man.

Jessica Nelson said...

My brain is boggled. Less sugar and they taste the same....??? I can't believe it. Hmmm. Guess I'll have to come up and visit? *wink*

I struggle to make my WIPs longer, usually.

Southpaw said...

That has got to be one of the best analogies I've read in a long time!

Jolene Perry said...

I think I learned in steps. First showing, not telling. Then bringing the reader into each moment.

If they walked to their car, did they notice something, smell something, FEEL something...
There's almost always a sensation or reaction to our actions, we just don't always think to put it into words. As writers - we should. So...yeah...one step at a time...

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Talk about a timely post. I finished editing the current draft of my wip yesterday and discovered it was almost 90 K. I freaked because it used to be 78 K. So now I'm going through it and cutting big time. Fortunately due to some plot changes, I've already cut 800 words in the first three chapters. :D Hopefully I can keep this up.

My husband uses less sugar in the cookies and no one notices.

Carol Riggs said...

Great analogy, cutting the "sugar." (And yes, most recipes call for WAY too much sugar!) Telling a summary of something and then describing it is REALLY common. Good for you, doing all that slashing! Keep up the great work. :D