Finished the First Hot Run-Through

OF IT’S DOLLY’S BIRTHDAY. That’s defined as reading through the story with the keyboard live. Anything I see I don’t like, I change — right then and there, on the spot. I have two plot holes and one major world-building issue to deal with out of it, which I don’t consider all that bad for a ten-year-old, first-draft of a 20,000-word novelet. In return for that detritus, I managed to fix several other plot holes and rectify a second major world-building issue.

For my next trick, I will attempt to cut the story in half.

This is in compliance with the standard that ANY story can be improved by cutting out half of it. I have seen this in the flesh in my own stories, so I know it works — although the quantitative statement may be hyperbolic.

The idea is to watch the statistics like a hawk, and work the thing like crazy to shorten the story. You start with a standard-format manuscript — 60-character (10-word) lines, double-spaced on a page that has 25 lines of text on it. Number of lines times ten equals your word count. Then you do everything you can to cut the number of lines. First things to go are widows and orphans. Then you look for ways to eliminate line wraps for two or more words. You cut a word from a phrase. Use a shorter word in place of a longer one. You make a pass through the story and edit out all of the adverbs. You make absolutely certain no word is repeated within about 50 words (exceptions allowed for articles and conjunctions). You look for places where the rhythm is bad — this usually means that you’ve used too many words or syllables.

I took a story that ran to 35,000 words down to 17,000 words once. The end result was a story that read like a Bourne thriller, and had fit and finish that made a THUNK! like the closing of the door on a new car. I highly recommend the process for anyone to use as a part of their finishing routine on a story. In this case, it will probably not be the last pass I make on the story, but I think it will be close to last.

Then will come the beta.

Oh, and BTW, those of you who participated in my last beta — for Armed Citizen — will be welcome on this one. It will probably come near the end of August, once I’ve worked over Double Switch and Sinfonia, and we’ll call the work The Dolly Apocrypha Collected: Volume One (Subtitle: Sometimes you just have to go to war in the underwear you have on.)

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