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  • Writer's pictureLaura L. Zimmerman

When you’ve got a few words to cut…

My current manuscript in revision happens to be a middle-grade fantasy set in a fictional medieval world with fun things like unicorns and magic. Yay, right? Right. Except that my brain had lots of ideas. Lots and lots. And lots. And well, as I often do, I didn’t exactly take a word count until after the first draft was finished.

Anyone want to guess where the word count came in? I’ll save you the agony.

Over 102,000 words.


True, this would be considered a short story if I were George R. R. Martin. However, this book isn’t for adults. It’s not even for young adults. An average word count of 50,000 is considered acceptable for this age range, maybe as much as 65,000, since I write fantasy and have all sorts of world building to do.

But my book is different, right? My story needs to be this long, so the reader can bond with the characters and the world can be properly presented. Right.

Or not.

After a nice long conversation with my agent, guess what the word around town was? Yep, you got it! Cut it down to 65,000! Or make it two stories – which I could have certainly done, but my gut told me this wasn’t the right route to take.

Sooo, I began cutting. And cutting. Sigh. And cutting.

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And surprise, surprise. Guess what? A few of those ‘trouble’ scenes – you know, the ones the kept nagging at me that something was off, or that I’d have to go back and make major revisions in order for them to gel with the plot? Well, those got cut. Problem solved. And you know what else? All those scenes that I thought the story just couldn’t live without? Well, it turns out, it sort of can! And it’s even better than it was. The story is tighter, with less chance the reader will grow bored and put the book down.

But what about all those scenes I cut? Was that just a waste of my time? Actually, no. It wasn’t. Every single scene I wrote brought me closer to each character, made me understand them better. Which I hope came through in the chapters that remained in the book. And, now I’ve got fun ‘sneak peeks’ and content for a possible ‘companion novel’ that already exist! It’s a little bit of a win-win. *wink*

I cut a lot from this work. More than I ever thought I might cut from any one manuscript. And I’m not even completely finished yet. But I will be soon and I’m happy that I was ‘forced’ to make those cuts. Thankful I had the chance to make my work the best that it can be, despite the pain it might have caused during the actual process.

What about you? Have you ever had to cut a scene you thought your story couldn’t live without? I’d love to hear your comments below!

Happy reading, friends.

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