kill your darlings

Revising My Manuscript


ver the past several months I’ve been immersing myself in writers groups and had the joy of working with some great CP’s (critique partners).

I can’t believe how many other romance writers have stepped forward out of the goodness of their heart to help take this poor, novice writer under their wing.

One CP recently told me based on my synopsis that my story was “too big”. Too many moving elements. Too much going on. She gave me some hard (but much needed) advice. My husband who has held my hand and dried my tears along this journey agreed with her.

But I’ve had this story like it is for so long! I whine. I don’t want to change it. Beta’s said it was great and they loved it! Why should I change it now? Nope. Not listening.

Not listening. Plugging ears.

So I did what any sensible person would do. I dug my egotistical heels in and plugged my ears. Then, after the dust settled and I picked myself up off the floor. I really started to look at things objectively.

I sat down with my husband (the most patient man on the planet). We printed out my synopsis and highlighted each subplot in my novel.

So. Many. Colors.

Vibrating colors gif

It was like an acid trip on paper.

Ok. So maybe, just maybe my story IS too big.

So after a week of sulking (and total avoidance), I dug in–knowing what I needed to do.

This included taking out a sub plot that didn’t advance the storyline. It was really convoluted with a lackluster ending. This also included (gulp) removing pages and pages of a SC that I LOVE LOVE LOVE. That was hard for me. Killing my darling Blaze.

Don’t worry readers, you will still get plenty of Blaze in book two. I promise, he’s worth the wait. 

This deleted so much I was able to go in and add in some deleted scenes and backstory that I absolutely loved. This in fact made the romance between Scott and Tori that much stronger.

Also, I had the dreaded cliffhanger. I LOVED this cliffhanger. It was so cheeky and creative. I had been holding onto it with a death grip. I had to step back and ask myself: Am I really delivering my readers a satisfying ending? Was this cliffhanger going to look like a only marketing ploy to sell more books? I didn’t want readers to think that I was tricking them into a sequel. I honestly just had so much more story to tell and it had to end SOMEWHERE.

So, I rewrote my ending. You know what? I LOVED it. As hard as it was to let go of that ending that I’ve had for five years, it felt RIGHT. As hard as it was to delete all those scenes with my SC, it too felt right.

I then sent my new version to a new beta. She had lots of great feedback. She said and I quote. “I don’t know what the political intrigue was, but I’m definitely not missing it.”

She also had some amazing ideas and feedback. Mainly about my comma issues. (Hello my name is Avery, and I abuse commas.)

comma abuse comic

Yeah. It’s time to hire a professional editor. Let me just rub my magic lamp and ask the genie to give me the cash for that.

Aladdin rubbing magic lamp

So, dear writers, listen to your CP’s. Be willing to have an open heart and an open mind. Allow your feelings to get hurt. Allow yourself to cry over it, but only for a moment. Then do what needs done. Dust yourself up off the floor and get at it. Kill your darling. Even when it (like the quote says) “breaks your egocentric little heart.” Slice it. Dice it. Chop it up and put it back together again.

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Chopping Away


s I started looking into various agents I came to the realization that my word count on my first novel was extremely high. I know within the romance genre, most books end up somewhere between 70K-100K words.

My first draft was 117,000 words.

Brevity is obviously not my strong suit. I knew I needed to cut. So, before I sent to beta readers I whittled away at it and got it down to about 113K words. I knew I needed to still get lower in order to have agents even take a look at it. So, I took a step back and took a hard look at my writing.

I started researching on how to cut my word count. I read countless blogs about tightening up my writing and learned a lot. There were scenes I was grasping onto with a death grip that I knew needed to go.

This blog was super helpful in tightening up my writing.

Let me tell you, once I hit the delete key and removed the parts that didn’t advance my story, it was a liberating feeling.

Also I learned all kinds of tips on how to cut meaningless words, remove unnecessary dialogue tags.

This article by Diana Urban was probably the most useful thing that I read in helping me cut my word count in my first novel. By cutting the word “that” in my novel I eliminated about one thousand words.

Another helpful tip I read was to divide your novel into sections (like three acts of a play). Then you can see how many words per section you need to eliminate. Then you can see how many words by chapter, and then even down to page. When it comes down to it, you may only need to remove 10 words per page when all is said and done. Ten words from a page seems much less daunting than thousands of words.

It was a tedious, boring process, but it was exhilarating when I got that word count down. In two days of editing I managed to cut 11,000 words from my manuscript. It’s coming in at about 106,000 words right now. I know this is on the high end for romance novels, but I feel much more comfortable sending out queries with this word count rather than where I was.

I know I still have some editing to do. Ideally I’d like to be at 100K words. Even if I end up self publishing I have peace knowing that I produced a better novel by tightening up my writing.

So, grab a glass of wine, or beer, or coffee, sit down at your computer and start chopping away.

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