Trimming unnecessary words during my third draft

In October, I wrote about starting my second draft, which was all about fixing story errors and concentrating on the continuity of the storyline. In November, I began the third draft which is mainly about tightening my writing.

To start with, I looked at removing those unnecessary words and removing or changing words that I use too often. From my previous list and another one I found on the internet, I picked about 42 words to search out in my manuscript. I think as I went through these words I added 8 more words to the list.

proofBy using the Find feature in Word, I pulled up these words and then decided if they were necessary. Often they were not, and I deleted them or reworded the sentence. When I started, my novel was 101,355 words. I cut about 2,000 words. I can’t even begin to tell you how many words I ended up changing, but it was a lot.

I have the habit when I am writing my first draft to use my characters’ names a lot but as I clean up my novel, I replace those names with she, her, he or him as needed.

Another word I over use is “that.” I started with 956 and ended up deleting 300 of those.

After deleting or changing the words on my list, I began going over each chapter with my Revision Outline. This helps me review each section for structure and blending. I review dialogue and work on tightening the pace.

The outline instructions say to do each step one at a time, but I usually end up doing multiple steps at once. I also run my grammar program on each chapter when I am done with making my revisions.

Every so often – about every 10 chapters – I would go back and read aloud what was written. This is a great way to make sure everything sounds good. You can see if dialogue flows. And sometimes you catch that you use a word too often. I noted once that I had the word “room” five times in just three sentences. Needless to say, I changed that.

I am just finishing up the third draft. When I started, my novel was at 101,355 words. After the third draft, it has been trimmed down to 95,723 words. Yes – 5632 words were cut, but I know this is a better version of my story. It isn’t about how long your story is. It is about writing a good, compelling story.

Now this draft is not my final one. After I get done making my changes, I will put it away for a few days and come back at look it with fresh eyes. Then I will read it again – probably aloud. I will also have my husband read it. He likes having the computer read it to him as he makes any notes of things that are rough or need work but at this stage that shouldn’t be much.

After that…it will be time to publish this baby!

3 thoughts on “Trimming unnecessary words during my third draft

  1. sjhigbee says:

    This is SUCH an important part of the process – and yes, you’re right, the FIND option in Word is invaluable for this… THAT is also one of my WICKED WORDS (the ones I overuse when I’m slamming down my story during the first draft). I also use it to pinpoint my punctuation sins, too…
    Will you be losing many more words in your next edit? Do you find yourself changing scenes/deleting much, or is it all about tightening and pruning?

  2. I don’t think I will lose too much more after this edit. Right now it is all about tightening and pruning. It is hard to watch the word count drop but I know it will be worth it.

  3. […] at your word choice and tightening/refining the prose. This is an excellent time to weed out unnecessary words or phrases and polish your […]

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