A third! Okay, I always knew it was way too long at almost 90,000 words, but 60K is svelte! Most YA novels are between 55-90,000, so there's nothing inherently wrong with 90K. Except the longer novels tend to be detailed historical fiction, or fantasy epics with complex world-building. Not edgy, contemporary novels with a hint of magic. So I think my beta reader's right. A Courtney Summers' length novel would make much more sense. But that's a serious diet.
I've lost 7500 in the past few months from shifting around my plot. But that was the easy bit--cutting whole scenes! Now it gets tricky. Here's what I think comes next:
1. Cutting scenes, themes, arcs
Yes, I know I already did that. But I think I can do more. I have a lovely scene with the main character's mother that never really gets mentioned again. Cut. I have a party scene I adore, but I think I can take some of the important moments in that scene and weave them into a different scene. Cut. Every scene in the novel has to be carrying its weight in terms of character and story development. I'm after losing 22.5K more, so if there are any duplicate scenes (ie, multiple scenes that show my character's relationship with her mother), they have to go.
I spent this past weekend in Switzerland with my friend and fellow blogger Fiction Forge (well, yes, there ARE advantages to living in Europe, including no jet lag and 1.5 hour plane rides to Switzerland). FF was good enough to read through my entire outline with a metaphorical pair of scissors. And she was ruthless! But that was exactly what I needed.
We sat on her balcony with glasses of wine, a view of the distant mountains in the setting sun, and hacked apart my plot. I've had worse evenings.
2. Delete flashbacks
Does the reader really need to know what happened twelve years ago that shaped my main character into the person she is? If it's not absolutely relevant to the plot, it needs to go. If it is, I need to weave it into a bit of conversation.
3. Delete "time passing" scenes
You know how they do "time passing" scenes in the movies, with some fun music, maybe some dancing, jumping from scene to scene to scene, to show characters falling in love? Or training? Or growing up? Because Project Demo takes place over a year, I've included a number of those scenes in written form. They're just padding, they also have to go.
4. Start scenes later, end them earlier
For example, I don't need to show my character walking to a door before she opens it and begins the scene.
5. Trim verbiage
I know it's there, especially since my character tends to be a reflective, thoughtful sort. I need to make sure her voice is concise as possible. There can't be excessive description, or repetition of any kind (ie, from here on out, my character is reflective, not reflective AND thoughtful!). And every extra "just" and "still" and all those other meaningless words really must go.
Do I sound psychotic yet? Don't worry, I have no intention of gutting my book for an artificial goal. But I do think my reader's right, and the more I can cut without losing Project Demo's soul, the better. Between you and me, I'm aiming for 75K.
Have you ever gone on a massive cutting spree? Any additional suggestions I haven't thought of? How long is your work in progress?
Oh, and just to brag a bit more (and to prove I'm not making things up here on Critically Yours), here's the Alps in the distance:
FF has posted a lovely description and picture of the weekend on her blog, too. Ah, writing friends.