Writer Question: How Do I Cut Text from My Novel and Not Lose My Soul?!

This post, from Moonrat, originally appeared on Editorial Ass on 11/5/09.

I got a reader question recently, and (coincidentally) was, um, "approached" by a would-be author at a lit party the other night with a very similar question (although he did not word it nearly as nicely as you did, dear anonymous polite reader below). So it seems to me this is on a lot of people’s minds lately.


Dear Moonie,

A newbie (me, unfortunately) is having a bit of an issue with her MS. Cuts need to be made (my darn novel is a porky 130,000 words). But every time I start cutting out my protagonist’s funny little comments or thoughts that don’t necessarily add to the plot, I feel like I’m betraying and/or losing my beloved character and replacing her with a streamlined, made-for-the-market version of her. On top of that, the only person who’s seen my work says that the things I’m cutting really are unnecessary and need to go to make it more "effective."

As someone who’s probably dealt with many authors in this dilemma, do you think I’m just being overprotective of my character, or is there merit to my madness? At what point should an author listen to her gut over the advice of more experienced writers?


First, dear Newbie, kudos to you for identifying that 130,000 words is probably too long (and not taking affront, like the gentleman I encountered at that event last week, who insisted not a word of his 280,000-word ms was unnecessary). For those who want further discussion re: word count, I refer you here.

Now, Newbie, I identify three separate issues in your question:
1) volume
2) character integrity
3) trusting your gut over advice

I shall address these in order.


Read the rest of the post on Editorial Ass.