How to Slash Word Count on Your Manuscript

We’ve all been there. Whether it’s a short story contest with a tight word count, or a publisher who wants a manuscript under so many thousand words, you have to cut some precious material out of your narrative.

It’s true. You can snip a word or phrase here or there. That can be effective if you’re only slicing away a few hundred words to meet a magazine requirement, or trimming a piece of flash fiction. But what happens if you need to cut 10 or 20 thousand words? Line by line won’t cut it. Think like a director. Cut whole scenes or chapters.

I did this with my non-fiction book. McFarland wanted it to be about fifteen thousand words less. My best option was to axe a few chapters. A fellow writer of mine, Chet Cunningham, encounters this dilemma all the time. Publishers want him to condense a 70,000 word manuscript to 50 (or even, gasp 40) thousand words.

His trick? He eliminates whole characters and subplots. He chops scenes rather than individual lines. And it works. There’s a core story hiding in all narratives. Most of the rest is window dressing. If you’ve every written flash fiction with a 300 word count limit, you know that’s true.

If this horrid predicament ever befalls you, think big. Cut whole scenes and characters to preserve the essence of your story.

Tim Kane


About Tim Kane

Tim Kane is a young adult fiction writer.
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One Response to How to Slash Word Count on Your Manuscript

  1. Murdered darlings all over the cutting room floor…

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