Project 2012: Revision and story length

Dizzytangerine asked:

When you’re done, should your novel be longer or shorter? Meaning do you tend to add more content or delete. Thanks in advance!

Whether you end up with a longer or shorter novel depends on what you need to do to tighten and strengthen your story.

For some writers, the first draft is a concise exploration of the basic ideas, to be expanded on in the second draft.  For these writers, the second draft will be longer.

For some writers, the first draft includes a lot of extra information as the writing explores and expands on their original idea.   For these writers, the second draft should be shorter.

Look at the length of your first draft.  Is it in the range of 90,000-120,000 words?  Good.  Stick with that.  If it’s under, you have room to add words.  If it’s over, mostly you should be looking for things to cut.

I usually write short first drafts, because when I’m writing I leave out a lot of description and feelings in my rush to get the story down. When I do a second draft I still cut, but I also spend a lot of time expanding on the world and expressing the characters’ feelings.

What about you?  Are your first drafts long and wordy, or short and curt?


4 thoughts on “Project 2012: Revision and story length

  1. I’m the same way: I want to get the story down, so I tend to write shorter first drafts. As I’m writing, I make little notes to myself that say, “Insert ___ here.” I don’t want to take the time to research a plot element or cool gizmo when the words are flowing and the characters are being extra showy…there’s always time to go back and expand later. At least that’s what I like to tell myself.
    I’m guessing with *just* my notes to draw out more description, I can expand 30 pages, let alone developing stronger sub plots and story arcs.

  2. I love “shoulds” in rules for writing; they are such fun to ignore.

    A work of fiction needs to be as long as it needs to be. Of course marketing is a concern, but if you get bound up in marketing concerns while in the process of writing, ironically, your work will likely be *less* marketable.

  3. The first draft of the novel I’m revising finished up at 120,000 words. It’s long and wordy and now that I have a first outline for the second draft I think I’ll only keep half of those words. I approached this novel from a very seat-of-the-pants, exploratory perspective so it’s not to surprising.

    I have found that by doing the read through and beginning to work at Draft II at a scene description level I’ve disconnected myself from all of the prose and can cut scenes without much thought for the words that will go with them.

  4. I’ve found if I have all the scenes in a coherent structure, my next draft nearly always falls 10% less than the first draft. *Shrugs* It was a formula given to Stephen King and it’s probably a good number to shoot for when you’re looking to tighten everything and put the final shine on your manuscript.

    I just wish I wasn’t looking at starting with 0.

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