You’ve just had an amazing idea. Like a good writer, you jotted it in your notebook and later wrote about it. Trouble is, your piece didn’t turn out nearly as brilliant as you thought it would. Before you “Delete” or toss your handwritten draft into the round file, try revision on it.
In Part I of “Develop the Killing Instinct” I suggested writers use a sword to slash a large volume of words and distill the piece into one key sentence. This method slims a piece down to its purpose, allowing no extra fat, which editors appreciate. Only then may the writer pull out the jack-knife to trim the final ten percent of the words. Following are some tiny cuts that add up to several words:
Writers want to grow in skills, become more professional, and be published. Some of us may still be amateurs, but all of us want to improve in every area of the writing profession.
Whoa! Wait a minute! Every area? Is that realistic? Is that doable? Is that even wise?
How does a writer keep to the posted word count without losing all those inspired phrases? And why does it matter?
Editors have reasons for setting a maximum word count. Besides the premium of space in a publication, a stipulated word count attracts and creates writers with clear and effective writing. Slashing words from a manuscript is an exercise all writers should practice because it helps them discover their main idea. Finding that treasure gives them a tool designed to slice and dice until their manuscript is clear and easy to read.
You’ve looked through the guidelines and editor’s notes a second time after researching, outlining and writing the article, and you realize there’s one thing you missed, or forgotten. There are at least a hundred more words than the editor wants.