I am neck deep in the revisions on book two. It is going well. I wrote the first draft and topped it out at 59,000 words roughly. So I only need to go in and add about 20,000 to bring it up to my contracted word count. No problem.
Except there is a problem.
Revising for me is to go in and trim and cut and rearrange sentences in a way that cuts the word count. I take those long-winded, lackadaisical sentences and I chop them up into little, tiny pieces! Why? Cause I am a cold-blooded killer that’s why! I am the Ted Bundy of my manuscript, the Richard Ramirez of my plot!
No, seriously, I do it because there is one very simple rule you MUST keep in mind when revising. Ready for it? Is your little heart going pitter and patter?
YOU MUST MAKE EVERYTHING PAY FOR ITS TIME ON THE PAGE.
It’s simple. When you write your first draft you are in story mode and you are firing on all synapses just blurting out the story. Every idea is zinging around your braincase like one of those crazy rubber balls you find in a gumball machine. Bing, bing, zing, bang, boing! Crap is flying out of your mind and onto the page. You get everything in there. Your characters grocery list, your grocery list, characters motivations, their childhood drama, their preference for wheat over white, boxers over briefs, Coke over Pepsi…..you get the idea.
So now, in revision, you get out your hatchet and your scalpel and you go to work. You pare out every superfluous piece of prose and prune away every unnecessary detail. And when I say everything must pay for its time on the page I mean it. If you have a conversation between two characters then it either has to further the plot or serve for characterization. Even your speech tags (which should be a thing you take a hard look at) should serve a purpose. Use them sparingly and only to keep the order of the conversation going. Most of them should be replaced with a physical action that will clue the reader in on some aspect of the character speaking.
ex: I set my fork down on my plate, careful to keep it from making a sound. “I advise you to not do that.”
“Shove your advice old man.” Grimy fingers belonging to Black Bart moved down to grab my wallet from the linen tablecloth. I thought about the smudges they would leave on the cream colored cloth. What would the matre d’ do?
The steak knife still in my hand buried itself in his arm. Blood shot onto the table like spilled Cabernet Sauvignon as he screamed like the girl who found a spider in her hair. Grimy fingerprints didn’t seem to matter anymore.
I picked up my fork. A square of rare steak hanging from silver tines. “You should always listen to good advice.”
The steak was delicious.
Now that is rough. I just whipped that up on the spot, so don’t judge me, but you can see how there is not even one I said/he said. I used physical action to frame the conversation. I also told you Black Bart was an outlaw who didn’t bathe enough. the setting is a restaurant, probably high end with the linen tablecloths and matre d’, the protagonist is an old man who is cold-blooded and tough as nails.
That’s how I do it folks. Your mileage may vary.
Write well, y’all.