Low word counts – awesome!

This weekend, I found myself alone with the dog and the cat, carless.

It’s hard to convince people, but despite being somewhat of an introvert these days, I hate being alone. Sure, it’s been great bonding time for me and the animals. The cat in particular, who up till now has barely acknowledged me except when necessary, has followed me around all weekend. Three times, he even let me pick him and give him attention. Besides those five minutes (total), I needed something to occupy me. As tempting as Breaking Bad was in Netflix, I knew I needed to do some writerly work. (OK, I also watched the first season of BB, but that was really worth it.)

So it seemed like this would be the perfect time to work on revisions of the horror novel. Thursday I printed it out – all 426 pages – hole punched it, put it in a binder, and sat down to work on it. That’s when I realized just how tiring this can be, and how hard it is to see what you’ve accomplished.

When I’m writing a new piece, it’s easy to see how productive I am. At the end of the day, there’s a word count. The bigger the number, the better the day was. Going through this novel line by line, I’m both fixing glaring errors, as well as cutting out needless text. That means that at the end of the day, I’ll have anywhere from a few dozen “new” words (ie, more than I started with), but more likely negative word counts.

Oddly, I find that gratifying. The idea isn’t to bloat the text, nor to cut it too much. I’m trying to make it a bit tighter, streamlined. This time around, I’m trying to be concise.

So how am I working on it? As you can see in the picture, I have a binder with the first draft proof printed out, where I’m doing markups. The notebook behind that is where I’m keeping notes of things to address that are bigger than a few lines of text (scenes to move, blocks that needed deeper attention, etc.). I’m also keeping track of words I use too much that can be cut (there are a lot of “had <something>”s in my text, when a more direct verb works better). When I make enough progress in the binder, I switch gears and pull up the text in an editor, applying my handwritten changes. So far, this switching off has helped keep me from feeling overwhelmed. I’m nowhere near as far along as I had hoped when I started, but as of this morning I have revised and applied changes for the first third of the novel. I know it must seem a bit anachronistic to work with hardcopy like this (think of all the bushes I killed to print it!), but truth is I find it easier on my eyes, and easier to mark. I tried working off of my iPad, but line edits turned out to be clunky and the glare was awful. Working directly on the text on screen had me too quick to cut and chop because I was only looking at a small section of the text. With printed copy, I can flip, mark, erase, etc.

What’s next? Well, after I hear back from my beta reader and can see if their comments line up with the changes I implemented, I should be able to start sending this out for review. I’m a bit excited this time because I feel like beneath all of my typos and loose ends (which I’m correcting), there’s a solid story here. Reading through the novel is taking a while, but I’m still liking the story I see unfolding. That feels good 🙂

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