Editing Tip #5: The Easy way to Cut your Word Count

It can be hard to trim your novel down to size. How can you cut out thousands of words without losing key scenes, beautiful dialogue and perfect setting descriptions? There’s lots of methods, but one of the easiest is to cut 1 word from each paragraph.

Just 1 Word?

It might not seem like a lot, and that’s the point. A paragraph contains anywhere between 20-100 words – it’s easy to find 1 word in there that’s not pulling it’s weight!

Here’s what’s so great about this method. It’s super easy – and kinda fun – to try to strip a redundant word or cut an unnecesary preposition from a paragraph. Yet if you manage to cut just 1 word from each paragraph, you’ll remove 3000-4000 words from your novel, because most novels have 3000-4000 paragraphs. Maths at its finest.

Why Should I Trim my Word Count?

Your early drafts will have a lot of bloat – a lot of unneeded words. When you trim your novel using the cut-1-word-per-paragraph method (I really should patent that …) you’re stripping away the fat. You’ll be left with a cleaner, leaner, more readable story where every word has impact.

This Method in Practice:

Now, if you’ll indulge me for a bit, I’m going to discuss my work-in-progress novel, The Aeon Academy. The first draft was 86 800 words , the second draft was 87 500 words, the third was 72 800 words, the fourth was 73 500 words and the fifth is currently 62 900 words.

There’s been a clear progression of reduced word counts and this has correlated with improved writing quality. I won’t say that cutting words automatically improves your story, but it helps. The fifth draft (62 900 words) has everything I put in the fourth draft (73 500) apart from two small scenes, yet reads so much better because I’ve stripped it of unneccesarry words. It’s the same (hopefully great) story – with 10 000 less words worth of fat.

Taking it to the Next Level:

If you want to take this method to the max, pair it with my backwards-editing technique: read through your paragraphs backwards and eliminate a word from each one. This will provide greater objectivity and make it easier to spot words you can cut.

Final Thoughts:

There are lots of ways to slim down your novel, and this method shouldn’t be viewed as the only way to cut your word count. It is, however, a very easy method that you should consider trying.

What are your thoughts on cutting your novel’s word count? Do you have any other techniques? I’d love to hear your opinion!



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