Why Is My Word Count Too High?

Why Is My Word Count Too High?


If you have too much of everything in your final manuscript and your word count is way too high, use these three steps to help you fix the problem.

Why Is My Word Count Too High?

What happens when you get to end of your story and your word count is way over what it should be? You probably have a cast of 30 minor characters, 12 sub-plots, 20 settings, and long sentences full of adjectives and adverbs.

How do you fix this?

We need to start rewriting.

  1. Step 1: Remove most of the adjectives and the unnecessary adverbs. Decide which details you want to highlight, or which details are important for advancing the plot. This is the easy bit.
  2. Step 2: Cutting characters and settings is not easy without a complete rewrite. What should you start considering before you re-write? How can you get rid of characters? Perhaps you introduced a character because he has a job to do and you need him to advance the story. Consider which minor characters can be used more than once. Sometimes we use a waitress, a secretary, and a barman to show character or supply information. Is it possible to use the same character to do all that in three different scenes? Sometimes we do the same thing with our settings. We just keep adding more when we could use the same one. Instead of using a diner, an office and a bar, try to use only one of them. Your reader won’t be bored. Character is always more interesting than setting.
  3. Step 3: Sub-plots are harder to cut, but we get carried away so it’s something we have to learn to do. Two sub-plots are more than enough. Check your manuscript to see if you have kept to that. Sometimes we run out of story. Instead of improvising a new scenario for our main character, we introduce a whole new story line. This is a natural side-effect of having too many minor characters. When you cut or merge characters you will find it easy to remove sub-plots that aren’t needed.

This might be a good time to write your one-page synopsis, or, if you have already written it, look at it again. It will help you regain focus. It will take you back to your original idea and help you decide what you want to keep. Remember that what you cut in this novel might work in your next.

Why Is My Word Count Too High?

Happy re-writing.

Top Tip: If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

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