Trimming excess words from your novel

As I am editing my latest work, Destiny, I noticed that my word count keeps decreasing as I polish the sentences and remove many unnecessary words.

I have found that one word I used a lot in my original draft which is totally unnecessary is “that.” Now there is nothing wrong with this word, but often it can be cut without any loss of meaning to the sentence.

Example from Destiny

He only hoped they were right and that slipping the scepter back into the High Council archives would be as easy as Coy thought. – deleted

She began with one the Histories that mentioned King Rupert.  – left in

I also find that in my first draft, my characters “nod” a lot. It becomes tedious with a 90,000+ word novel, but I am using the “find” feature of Word and eliminating as many unnecessary words I can.

Here are few other words that other authors have said they feel they use too much.

Stare

Just

But

Some

Felt

Gasp

Shrug

Quite

Truly

Definitely

Extremely

Another author said they often mentioned their characters taking breaths. “I took a breath and plunged into the forest.” As he noted, breathing should be a given and was only interesting when the character stopped doing it.

Additionally, you can usually delete “really,” “pretty,” and “very” as these are unnecessary modifiers. This brings me to adverbs. These are often redundant or you can replace many adverbs and verbs with a single stronger verb.

Example: Coy closed the door angrily.

Rewrite: Coy slammed the door shut.

Cutting out excess words is just one step in editing your first, second or even third draft of your novel. Rest assured as you cut out words and tighten your prose, you are improving your story.

Do you have any other overused words to add to this list?

3 thoughts on “Trimming excess words from your novel

  1. Good points. I always end up cutting excess adverbs, and words like thought, looked, touched, etc. It takes the word count down a little bit, but many writers struggle with having to cut tens of thousands of words. I guess at that point you’re talking about cutting entire scenes!

  2. […] a word (or two or three) that they use too much. I find I use the word “that” too often so I routinely search for this word (and many more) as part of my editing step. If I made an effort to watch for these as […]

  3. […] a word (or two or three) that they use too much. I find I use the word “that” too often so I routinely search for this word (and many more) as part of my editing step. If I made an effort to watch for these as […]

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