I knew it had to be done, but it’s something I put off for many months. Almost a year in fact. I wrote another novel in the interim. 

It’s not like I simply had some polishing to do, so it wasn’t like ripping off a band-aid. (Unless that band-aid was fifty feet long.) The novel I put a year of my life into had grown to 135,000 words. Or about 50,000 words too long. In some genres that’s a full-length of a novel. 

How was I going to remove 200 pages of brilliance? After all, every sentence–nay, every word–was a stroke of genius. Wasn’t it?

The good thing about stepping away from my novel for a year was exactly that. I was a year removed from what I’d written. And much to my surprise, it was not all brilliant.

So how did I kill 50,000 words?

First up (obviously) was the bloated 12,000-word section of backstory. I cut it down to 2,400 and I think it reads much better now, although I’m still glad I wrote the full 12k. It helped me flesh out some characters and understand them more.

I then cut a lot of extraneous scenes and details. It was a bloodbath. Entire tertiary characters were completely obliterated, left like bad actors on the cutting room floor. Most of this was in the first half of the book as my writing tightened further on. That was another 15,000 words or so.

The rest was simply cleaning up my writing. I deleted nearly every dialogue tag in the book. That probably knocked out a couple thousand words.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Don’t worry,” Russell said. “These words are just in the way.”

I also wiped out a lot of smiles and nods and other mannerisms that the reader doesn’t need to read. They can picture it without me forcing it down their throat. Their imaginations can add their own smirks and head tilts. If I need to state that Bill and June looked at each other and shook their heads, that means my dialogue sucks.

A slaughter of words is what my novel needed, and that’s what it got. It’s now at 87,000 words. A perfectly acceptable word count for a first novel in crime fiction.

My bursa are bubbling and burning red but I am finally finished my “final” edit.

The third draft is only 1,215 words longer than the second so I am pleased with the outcome. I managed to address a few continuity problems (always a concern when dealing with time-travel) and conducted an adverb genocide.

After the adverbs, I went on a killing spree of all the nodders. There are still a few people performing silent confirmations but they proved quite difficult to kill. (I’ll revisit them with fresh eyes once they’ve let their guard down.)

I also killed a lot of commas. Maybe too many.

We used to get along smashingly, the comma and I. I used it frequently and at times even to excess. The preceding sentence would definitely have had two commas and maybe even three if I was feeling so wild. But the comma and I had a falling out. I’m not sure when or why and I don’t care to point fingers but I’ve decided to put some distance between us.

However… it is a YA book so perhaps I’ll need to sneak a few back in to satisfy the pedantic. 

This one will be sent off to agents. Let the queries begin.

Zoom. Zip. Four months just flew by.

There was another edit, of course, and Chapter Nine is no more.

Its chewy bits remain scattered throughout the first chapter, but most of it is in the bin where it belongs. It was a massacre of darlings.

And it felt good.

But the time for feeling good is over, because I’ve decided to give Pitch Wars a shot.

What is Pitch Wars?

From some of the accounts I’ve read, Pitch Wars can be a wonderfully brutal and harrowing experience.

Excellent.

I’ve gone through the list of this year’s mentors, and there are four I’m looking at. So now it’s time for further research, planning, and plotting. And online stalking.

Writing the query letter was not so challenging after all. And with the synopsis already written, knocking out two sentences on the plot of my novel was actually a breeze.

So, there’s that.

I opened my travel-battered copy of The Novel Submission Road Map (coming soon for $19.99) to see where I was heading next. That was four days ago.

The next step was straightforward enough: Look at your first three chapters.

Well, that’s easy. It hadn’t even been two weeks since I finished editing my third draft, and those first few chapters were obviously part of it. They must be in great shape. This was going to be a breeze!

Regardless, in preparation for this leg of the journey, I figured it couldn’t hurt to read a few articles on opening chapters. Short, punchy, to the point–that’s what sells. That’s what draws the reader in. That’s what agents want to see.

Short. Hmm.

My first chapter was no problem, clocking in at just over 2,500 words. But that second chapter, at a few keystrokes under 11,000 words, was definitely a point of contention.

Quickly, and quite simply, that gargantuan second chapter became three chapters. The book reads better by just that alone. Unfortunately, the end of Chapter 2 became the end of Chapter 4, so it won’t make the cut to send to agents, and I really wanted it in there. But some agents ask for the first 50 pages, so maybe I’ll include with those queries should they arise.

After slicing up Chapter 2, I took my red pen to page one. Then page two. Then three. And so on.

It took much longer than I’d anticipated, and four days later I had a stack of paper with a lot of red ink on it.

Today was spent typing up the edits, and I finally arrived at my destination. All I need to do is compile it all together, and I’m good to go.

Tomorrow, it’s back to researching agents.

After 12 months, 4 beta readers, 3 drafts and 130,000 words I’m ready to share my novel with the world. Or at least a few editors. Well, hopefully some agents.

But I’m new to this and learning as I go. And as I’ve been focused on writing and eating, auditing, editing, I haven’t exactly been reading ahead. It’s like I’m driving cross-country, checking the map whenever I hit the next town.

And the town I just pulled into is called Synopsis.

This town sucks.

Evidently I’ve got to take the 130,000 words I’ve toiled on over the past year and condense them into 300. Or 400. Or, maximum 700, depending on who you ask.

It should chart the main plot, but shouldn’t outline it. It should entice the reader, but should not be marketing. It must give a feel for the book, but not mention its themes. Got it.

One of the many posts I read on The Synopsis proclaimed “it shouldn’t take long”. They were clearly talking about how many words it should be and not how long it takes to write one. Because after six hours of working on it, my synopsis is 820 words.

I know there’s only one way out of this miserable, one-horse town, and it’s straight down Compression Street.