Editing Tendencies: Do You Usually Cut or Add?

Photo credit: Ars Electronica on Flickr
When I finished the first draft of MS 10, it clocked in right around 61,000 words. By the time I began querying it several months later, I’d bulked it up to about 74,000 words. Now as I begin revisions again, I’ll be adding even more.

The last manuscript I’d queried before MS 10 had a first draft count somewhere around 40,000 words. In it’s current, most polished state, it’s now sitting pretty at about 86,000 words.

Here’s the thing that I find interesting—oftentimes when writers talk about revising, they mourn the loss of tens of thousands of cut words, and deleted scenes, and entire sections scrapped and rewritten. And while I’ve certainly done my fair share of cutting and rewriting, I find that most times, my biggest issue isn’t cutting—it’s adding.

As many of you who have read my blog before know, I’m a fast drafter. And while I definitely imagine there are fast drafters out there who have to do major cuts to their manuscripts, I find that my first drafts tend to come in really lean. I get the essentials of the story down—character basics, the main plot and any subplots, tiny bits of setting, etc. It isn’t until I start revising that I really get into the nuances of the story—the in-between stuff that takes my manuscript from scraps to a fully fleshed-out book.

Now, there are definitely exceptions—I have one MS that clocked in at around 90-someodd,000 words that needs major cutting and adding (mostly a lot of cutting so I can fit that stuff to add)—but by and large, I find that my revisions are mostly incorporated of layers upon layers of additions.

So that’s my process—now I want to hear from you. Writers, when you edit, do you tend to cut or add? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Do your first drafts tend to come in lean or prime for cutting? Join the discussion at @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet
Writers, do you tend to cut or add when editing? Join the discussion at @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet


Emma Adams said...

I'm the same - I usually end up with a skeletal draft of around 50,000 words which I then need to flesh out. I have to rework and add in new scenes but rarely have to cut anything out! Revising for me usually involves adding in more character development and descriptions - things that sometimes get neglected when I'm fast-drafting!

Ava Jae said...

Yes! I think that's probably a large part of the reason I love revising so much--the additional material that really fleshes out the story and makes it so much better than I originally imagined comes when I can slow down, which doesn't happen in fast-drafting.

RoweMatthew said...

I do a bit of both but mainly I have to cut. I waffle a lot. But I have a real problem with cutting. I hate to lose stuff. I really feel that it has merit and I want my readers to read it. It takes some self persuasion to remove anything but the most mundane of sections.

Ava Jae said...

I've found that when I do cut, it makes it easier if I keep a file of deleted scenes, that way I know I can always add it back in or recycle it later if I want to. :)

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