I’ve recently posted about how important it is for a writer to cut things from their work ( see; Cut, Cut, Cut. A Necessary Step For Writing) especially when working under a word count. Sometimes specific text and minimal description isn’t enough. Occasionally, you’ve got to ‘kill your darlings.’

I’ve been working on a short story for a competition that limits you to 6,000 words. After my first two rounds of revisions I was still about 1,500 words over. Something had to go and in a large quantity to. I decided to exercise the oldest trick in writing–I killed a darling. AKA: I removed an entire chapter.

The chapter in question existed solely to set up the protagonist for being ‘rescued’ by the group that she was supposed to infiltrate. Nothing else of significant note happened, despite that I liked the events I had designed within those pages. But I recognized I could remove the chapter and summarize it with a few sentences in the next in order to maintain cohesiveness with the whole story. In doing so I cut over 1,000 words off of my existing count. I still had a little over 600, but hey! I’d gotten most of it done in one fell swoop. I was on a roll.

Getting the word count down after that was a little more difficult. There weren’t entire chapters that I could paraphrase and I thought I’d tightened the text as much as I could. It’s amazing how motivation to get a certain result can prove you wrong. Over the course of half an hour I bounced across the chapters, whittling my word count down first to 342, then 26, then five. Finally, I got myself beneath the word count limit–squeaking in at 5,995 words. Success!

The only thing I will do now before I submit it is to check spelling and punctuation as I don’t want to jinx myself. But it only goes to show that when the word count gets tough, it’s the chapters that need going.

kill your darlings

Disclaimer: I do not own the imagery used in this blog post and have no artistic claim to it.


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