How to lose 4000 words in eight days – the good way.

I needed a bit of a break from thinking about writing, so I took a bit of a break, but I just thought I’d share how my editing went.

Well… My writing was tighter than I thought, but I still cut over 4000 words out of it.

I only took out maybe four tiny scenes.

Would you like to know my secret?



I read most of the book out loud. Yeah I know, tedious as hell, but one thing it does do is keep me focused on flow. When I read out loud, I immediately notice when the flow’s off. Or when the sentences are boring.

Another thing I got a lot was over-writing. If I said the sky is blue once, I don’t have to say it again two seconds later if it isn’t important to the story. So the best way I said it stays. The other doesn’t.

Sentences running too long when they sound better shortened got split. When you split a sentence, you tend to lose words. “Ands”, “buts”, “ases”, “becauses” etc. become unnecessary. He did something as another thing happened could possibly become Something happened. He did something. Depending on the sentence’s complexity, I lost at least a word.

Cutting to necessities, I changed phrases like: The exterior of the house to The house’s exterior. Two words gone because I changed the sentence. Another favorite: was “verb”-ing. The “was” goes the minute I simply change sentence’s tense.

Switching sentences to cut passive tense can lose three or four words for you.

Finally, I have one special word: that. I can’t believe how it infested my writing. I probably found five (yes. FIVE) sentences with three (yes. THREE) “thats” in them. *shudder*

Probably an anticlimactic answer to those of you who are new to editing. Still, one or two words per sentence might not sound like a lot, but when you’re dealing with thousands of sentences, those little bits at a time add up.

I probably cut many more words than 4000, but I had to put some in here and there to focus the characters’ motivations a bit more and so on.

What do you cut when you want to pare down words?


24 thoughts on “How to lose 4000 words in eight days – the good way.

  1. I'm such a bare bones writer, I'm usually adding words! But I do tend to write long sentences that would work better as two shorter sentences. And I overuse 'felt.' Think I've worn out the 'find next' feature in Word.

  2. I actually have the opposite problem. I under-write. I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but my editing does not come in with cutting words; rather, I'm busy clarifying sentences or making my metaphors more precise.

  3. Agree, agree, agree, 100 times agree with everything you said. I also look for other filler words like “just”, which I just can't seem to resist but just doesn't usually add all that much. 🙂

  4. I hear ya! I over-write many of times and it drives me absolutely crazy when I have to edit out..wha, 100 words! No wonder, editing is my least favorite part of the writing process! One of these days, I'll get good at getting to the point of what I'm writing…

  5. When I'm writing I put it down and come back to it and re-read. Even if it is only 10 minutes or so. I take out or re-write phrases that sound a little stilted. Writing is different from talking but not too much. Some writings seem a little affected and I try not to do that.
    You did very good to cut that much wordage,you'll be okay.
    Good on ya Misha.

  6. I don't read aloud. I tried once, just managed to read 2 chapters and got tired. I use a lot of “as though”. Its been deleted, though not all of them. Cutting 4000 words is super. Your MS must be in a real sexy form now 😉

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