How to Tighten Your Manuscript
By Michaela Whatnall
Revision comes with many challenges, but there is one that can be particularly hard to face—cutting down your manuscript. As a writer, you’ve spent months, maybe years, getting your words onto the page, only now to be faced with the task of removing many of them. Tightening your novel, however, is one of the most important steps in creating a finished work.
Every scene, every paragraph, every sentence should be working towards a purpose. Otherwise, the prose will drag, and no matter how good the story, readers will get bored. The process of cutting down may seem intimidating, but by being aware of common types of filler, you can tackle the job and bring your novel to the next level. Naomi Musch conceives of cutting filler as “trimming the fat” in her article Why You Must Trim the Fat in Your Novel, What it Means, and How to Do It. Think of your story as meat your readers want to devour; in order to give them the best reading experience possible, you need to cut away the fat to get at what your story is really made of.
There are many levels on which to approach the issue of cutting filler from a novel. Entire chapters, characters, and plot points may be cut, or your focus could be on tightening wordy sentences. In this post, we’ll concentrate on how to make cuts to scenes and paragraphs.
So, how do you identify sections that need to go?