Saturday, December 20, 2014

Giveaway Day 9: Orphan's Song by Gillian Bronte Adams

Update: Congratulations to our winner, Bethany!

Stephanie here! Gillian Bronte Adams is our guest today. She's sharing about her experience with cutting her debut novel from 120,000 words to 80,000, and we're giving away a paperback copy of it to one lucky commenter! Details are at the end of the post.


Gillian Bronte Adams is a sword-wielding, horse-riding, coffee-loving speculative fiction author from the great state of Texas. During the day, she manages the equestrian program at a youth camp. But at night, she kicks off her boots and spurs, pulls out her trusty laptop, and transforms into a novelist. Orphan’s Song, the first book in her fantasy trilogy The Songkeeper Chronicles, is now available. Hang out with Gillian on her blogTwitter, or Facebook page where she loves chatting about all things related to fantasy, books, villains, and adventures.

When I signed with Amanda Luedeke as my agent, she told me that she really liked the story and characters of Orphan’s Song, but thought it was too long. I needed to trim it down to get at the true heart of the story.

At that time, Orphan’s Song clocked in at about 120,000 words.

My new goal was 80,000 words.

So I tore into my novel with sword in hand determined to cut 30,000 words from my story. At the beginning, I didn’t think it was possible. There was absolutely no way I could cut 10,000 words from my story, let alone 30,000. I would give it my best shot, but come on, those 30,000 words were necessary!

But I drew up a plan and held to it like a lifeline as I dove into the turbulent waters of my novel, and it wasn’t long before I was treading water and headed toward shore.
I decided I would…

1.Be intentional about every word I allowed to stay

This meant that I often read and re-read and re-wrote sentences and paragraphs at least ten times before deciding that I’d said exactly what I meant to say in the best words I could choose to say it in.

Now, the best words are not always the fewest words. I’m a lyrical writer. I love using cadence and rhythm and varying short and long sentences to develop vivid word pictures and suck the reader into the emotion of the moment. But knowing how to balance your love of words with a desire to keep the plot moving is key.

And a great descriptive phrase that’s bogged down in a massive paragraph full of description won’t have as great of an effect, so learning to minimize words for maximum impact is a great thing.

2. Ensure that every scene added to the story

Once I realized I needed to trim my scene count, I started boiling each scene down to its bones to figure out what really needed to be in my story. Each scene needed to move the story forward, whether it was advancing toward a key plot point, laying the grounds for conflict, revealing an important piece of information, or simply pushing my characters toward who they needed to be by the end.

If a scene didn’t accomplish at least one of those goals, and preferably more than one, it was voted off the Island.

This was where I learned to combine scenes to keep the story moving and amp up the conflict between characters who were focused on accomplishing different goals in the same scene.

3. Cut unnecessary dialogue

Sometimes once my characters got talking, it was so hard to get them to stop. Especially once those juicy tidbits of backstory started floating to the surface. But I found that I had to curtail my characters’ talkativeness to the important bits or wind up with scenes that were nearly as longwinded as a bagpipe.

It’s really important to do this with internal dialogue too. It’s easy to fall in love with being in your characters’ heads and being privy to all of their thoughts and emotions. But it’s also easy to slip into using internal dialogue as a means of telling what’s really going on, rather than letting the audience see it.

So if the internal dialogue is just telling, cut it. And if your characters’ conversations start getting out of hand, reel them back in. Cut to the chase. Focus on what’s important to further the plot, build character development, and give your story that flavor that makes it uniquely yours.

In the end, I cut my 30,000 words from the story and wound up with a novel that felt a thousand times cleaner and sharper. I still have a tendency to write long, but keeping these three things in the back of my mind has helped me reel in my crazy first drafts to something much more manageable and easier to edit later on.

Stephanie again. Here's Gillian's book:

This is the actual copy I'll be mailing to you. After Christmas, because the idea
of going back to the post office before... *Shudder*

Due to the unfortunate price of international shipping, this giveaway is only available to U.S. residents. When leaving your information, please make sure to be accurate so we can reach you should you win! We will be updating this post with the winner once we've selected him or her.


Most writers tend to "write short" or "write long" like Gillian does. Which one are you?


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70 comments:

  1. I have a problem of not writing enough words.My current story can't get above 20,000, and I'd so love to see it be a full length novel.

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  2. I tend to write long, although I can't get my word count past 14,000.

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  3. I like to write long, and I'm so close to be in 15,000 words in my forth chapter for my story. But when editing comes, I will have a lot to edit.

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  4. I tend to write long, and I'm getting worse about it. One of my WIPs is probably approaching 100K words, and it's STILL not done. And about half of that I'll probably have to cut because it's, A) filler that I wrote during a NaNo event when I was desperate for words, or B) part of a subplot that I decided not to do halfway through.

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  5. I tend to write short. My first draft is the skeleton, with little snippets of dialogue and the basic storyline. After I'm done, I will add a description, character building moments, etc.

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  6. I write short. Usually it's description i need to add more of.

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  7. I usually write short, though my current first draft is writing long.

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  8. My first draft was 36,000, but I rewrote it up to 80,000. Then I decided the story needed to be set 100 years later than I thought, so, here we go again.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear you're writing it out again, but that is so incredible rewriting it up that many words! I admire you~ Did you find it difficult going up over 40000? I'd lose my mind!

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  9. I'm the type to get in and get out of a scene, making it hard during an edit to figure out what details to add. I wish I wrote long to begin with, but you are what you are.

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  10. I usually overwrite to that point that I'm cringing when I realize the point could have been said in a lot fewer words. I also tend to write multiple scenes different ways to get a feel for what I really want. It makes the editing process... interesting.

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  11. I think that I am in between the long and the short. Three of my novels ended between 46 to 56k. But they're going to need a lot of work. And I already know some things that need to be added and taken away. So we'll see.. lol

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  12. I tend to underwrite! I hate it cause then I feel like I have to add more to make it a suitable book

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  13. I tend to write long with my beginnings (it takes me so many rewrites to get past those first few chapters) but then I write short for the middle. O.o

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    1. Great post, Miss Adams! I found it VERY helpful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your story with us. :)

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  14. I tend to write short, and then I'll rewrite the book, filling in the scenes that were bare bones in the last draft.

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  15. I am a compact writer, so my drafts are small and then usually stay around the same length unless I add scenes.

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  16. I definitely tend to write long, and killing my darlings is always difficult.

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  17. I write short. Really short. :P Like, right now, my completed fantasy WIP is barely 40k. Yeah....I love writing new scenes, though. I WOULD LOOOVE TO WIN ORPHAN'S SONG!!!!

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  18. I envy those who write long. I wrote short--like, novella-length short. I'm not looking forward to trimming sentences and scenes, although I know I will have to. I just don't want my book to get any shorter than it already is.

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    1. I feel your pain. My novel clocked in at like 33000 words.But I realized that I trended to rush through important scenes and depended on dialogue to tell the story too much. So fixing those things is helping. XD The expanding process is hard though, especially when certain parts need cut.
      Oh to be a long writer. XD

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  19. I tend to do both short and long. I will write an entire dialogue that is practically fluff, but then forget to write descriptive scenes. It really depends on the day. (-:

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  20. I write long for scenes I don't feel like writing, and I write short for scenes I love. XD I know exactly how I want to write those scenes I really enjoy and want in the story. The scenes I'm not sure about are so hard that I feel the need to add in extra words to get myself through it. It really makes no sense, but I love editing out the words.

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    1. Oh! Me too! Yeah, terribly frustrating when your favorite scenes play out short, while you just sit on those transition scenes not sure what to do with them.

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  21. I usually write short then I add a lot then I have to cut back. I'm currently in the same boat as you were. I wrote something really long so I'm going in with a machete and cutting all of the unnecessary stuff out and doing some rewriting to make it all fit seamlessly. I'm surprised at how great I'm taking it lol. XD

    Stori Tori's Blog

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  22. I think I usually tend to write short... at least with the last two novels I've finished. I'll have to see if I can add words while editing... I wish I wrote long first drafts, though... :) Thanks for the giveaway!

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  23. I feel like I write too long while I write short. Like, I'll write short. I'm having trouble even making 50,000 words on my current WIP. But I also feel like there's a bunch of unnecessary information in there, which means I'm writing long in the wrong places. So that's something to work on.

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  24. I write short. I barely use any description in my first draft, so most of it's dialogue and action.

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  25. I'm not sure; I've never really finished a full novel. I think that I'd write short, however.

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  26. Long. Every time. :) I have a tendency of including scenes just because I like them, not necessarily because they help the story along. Which makes it hard a lot of times to cut those scenes. I think I'm getting better at it, but I also liked to include a lot of description and movement-by-movement detail. I'm learning to leave more to the reader when it comes to those things.

    Great tips, Gillian! I learned from this and can't wait to put it into practice in my next writing session. :)

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  27. Hmm....good question. I'd say I do long scenes but short overall because I tend not to finish things.

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  28. I tend to write short. My best writings are the ones that I intended to be short stories and put all of my energy into them. I find it pretty difficult to write long stories.

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  29. Great post Gillian, I really enjoyed it! I've read the e-version of Orphan's Song, but I'd love to have the physical copy. :)

    I would say I write short, because I don't have much description, BUT my first draft (ever) that I just finished was 80,400+, which is kind of long for a first draft (I think) so I don't know. I write rather slowly and edit somewhat as I go along.

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  30. Thank you for telling us about your experiences, Gillian!!!

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  31. I write short all too often. What makes it even worse is that while I'm going through all the action fast, I slow down during the stagnant scenes. Talk about priorities!

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  32. Me? I write long in some scenes, and short in others. I get too distracted by the scenery or a character's thoughts or feelings when I am really doing well writing, and I don't write nearly enough once the nicely planned scene is done. Both, really

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  33. I tend to kind of ramble. Either that or I can't come up with the right words to say as much as I want to. So I guess I can say it varies...

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  34. Really enjoyed reading this post. While I'm still in the process of the initial rough draft, I'll definitely be coming back to this post when I start editing.

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  35. Eh, my writing is probably a bit longer than usual. I'm working on my first novel, my total word count is probably around 90,000.

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  36. I definitely write short. Trying to fix that, though. And, I just got a copy of this for my birthday! Can't wait to find time to read it.

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  37. I don't really know what I am because I'm just writing my first story, so I guess I'll find out soon enough!

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  39. I tend to write long. I can't, as of now, develop a character well in under 2,000 words.

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  40. I tend to write long, actually, because I'm constantly thinking of what else can happen in a scene.

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  41. I definitely tend to write long. My first draft of my manuscript was over 113,000 words, but now I have thankfully trimmed it down to about 100,000 :)

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  42. It depends on the story I write. My last one was quite the short novel, but my current WIP is actually turning out to be decent size. So it all depends on the story and how many words I have to say about it. :)

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  43. My book was a whopping 115,000 words before I went for the bit edit. After the deletion of far too much dialogue, over description of every place, and combining some scenes, I've gotten it down to 81,000. I have a few chapters left to work on but my goal is between 80,000 and 85,000.

    Congrats on the book by the way. That's a huge accomplishment!

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    1. Thank you, Anna. I'm still slightly in shock ...

      That's some major editing you've done! Isn't amazing what you can accomplish by just removing a few words on each page and reworking some scenes, isn't it?

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  44. Hmm, I my first draft is probably a combination of short and long. I definitely need to cut some words and scenes out, but I also need to add a lot. :)

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  45. I'm a bit of both, I think. If I get really into a scene I'll write long, but I kinda sorta left out the majority of a major plot line in the first and second drafts :P That's the next thing I'm going to revise.

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  46. I usually write short, I suppose. My drafts usually come between 50 - 75 thousand words. But I suppose it just depends on the story.

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  47. I definitely write short in my drafts. They're just the bare bones of the stories, so when I edit I fill it out. That's why I love editing so much!

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  48. Most of the time my first drafts end up short, and I add more crucial scenes in other drafts.

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  49. I tend to write long. My novella that I'm entering in a writing contest is currently 2,000 words over the limit, and I have no idea how I'm going to cut them. So this post should come in helpful, Gillian! =)

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  50. I tend to write short, and I think it's because I get caught up in details I haven't figured out yet. But I'm working on it. XD

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  51. I tend to write short, and I have a problem with choppy sentences. :D

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  52. I write short and...am working on it with every book I write. Getting there. My longest so far is 60k, working towards 75k with this current WIP. :)

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  53. I always write short! My first real novel ended at 14,000, but I upped it to 53K over about 2 and a half years. Great tips, though! I'll definitely keep them in mind.


    Alexa S. Winters
    thessalexa.blogspot.com

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  54. Just curious, Gillian. Did Stephanie use the name, Bronte, for her Ellie Sweet books based off your middle name?

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    1. Not to my knowledge, lol. :) My guess is Stephanie picked it just because it sounds like a cool writer's name because of the Bronte sisters. My family jokes that my parents knew I was going to be an author when they named me, but really, they just picked it because they liked the sound of it.

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  55. I tend to write long and short both. Sometimes, when I'm hitting writer's block, I end up writing short, but I also write long when I'm writing a scene I been wanting to for a while or I'm just excited about t. Though usually I'm a shorty. But don't worry. I'm tall for my age. :D

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