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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Third Draft, Fourth Draft, Fifth Draft, Score

Last night I couldn't get to sleep because I was trying to think of how to cut Black Hole Son.

No one can give me a straight answer about whether 140,000 words is too much. Should I spend the effort paring down big chunks or can I take off 20,000 words in the next revision? Will an editor give me a list of things to cut anyway? Where can I make cuts so that the story remains even?

And do I even need to be stressing about this? Am I wasting my time? Will an agent accept a 140,000 word first novel?

If I start cutting big scenes, I want to do it now, not after the next revision, because I want to make sure there are no artifacts. So I spent all night trying to figure out how to engineer the "first day" so that I reduce the number of scenes (and in doing so, speed up the beginning, which 50% of responders say drags on). In both good and bad luck, killing one person's scene means killing the other, so I get two for the price of one. But this means reduction in the pacing I want.

So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to do the third revision without making big cuts. Just a normal run-through, like I usually do. Last time I managed to cut 20,000 words without making big cuts, although I don't expect to succeed that well this time around. This will be the version I start submitting to agents.

While it's making the submission rounds, I'm going to start working on a fourth draft. This fourth draft shall come to be known as the failsafe draft. It will have all the big cuts, severe reduction of preachiness and any extraneous insight. It must be under 120,000 words, maybe even less. This is the edition I predict the editor will want me to make. Should my third draft fail to procure an agent, I'll start sending around this fourth draft.

I'm not sure when I'll decide the third draft has failed - I'll have to get a feel for the respondents before I make that decision. But that's the plan, hopefully it'll save me some work, and save my preferred version of the story.
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