Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Revisions: Killing My Not-So-Sexy Darlings

For no particularly good reason, I've been tracking my progress with the third draft of my work-in-progress by charting the effect of my revisions on word count.

When I started last month, the word count stood at 103,095 words, down about 5,000 from my second draft. I began the third draft by adding more than 2,000 words. This is not the direction most revisions are supposed to go. After all, there's an old saying that when you revise, you have to "kill your darlings"; in other words, eliminate anything that doesn't move the story forward, no matter how well written you think it is or how attached to it you might be.

When the word count peaked at 105,601 words, the killing began. Gradually, at first. Then I hit the 104k mark. At that point, I was up to Chapter Seven. This was the chapter I had been thinking of as the "Sex Chapter" for reasons you can probably guess. As the chart shows, it was there that I embarked upon a rather murderous rampage. Some of those scenes, which I thought were pretty good when I wrote the second draft, made me cringe when I read them in preparation for revision. Cutting pages that you may have spent days or weeks or even months writing isn't easy. But in this case, I took up the task gratefully. This wasn't killing darlings. This was mercy killing.

The trend continues. I'm now about halfway through the manuscript and the word count stands at just above 100,000. I know from my previous drafts that I still need to add another scene or two for continuity in later chapters, so the count may climb once again. But I also know that there are still plenty of not-so-sexy darlings in the remaining chapters. There will be blood.

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