Well, today I've officially passed the halfway mark with the rewrite of my novel, which is exciting. This is the last rewrite I'll do (unless some editor signs me on and wants me to do more, of course!). I love rewriting. I love fleshing things out, tightening up phrasing, making the dialogue more oblique, honing images, adding texture. But I'm conscious with this draft that I have to cut words. This draft started at about 193,000 words, which is too long for a first novel. Too big a risk for a publisher to take. So I'm aiming to finish with 170,000. I'm down to 188,000 so far so have got a fair bit of cutting to do yet.
What worries me is I've removed whole chapters from the first half and cut a few POV characters, and all I've lost is 5,000 words. Still, when I've finished I'll do a final editing pass -- in the past I've done the cut-ten-words-out-of-every-page approach, and that's helpful too. With the novel at well over 600 pages, that's 6000 words straightaway. And really, I've reworked the beginning more recently than the end -- I abandoned an earlier draft that was a tightening draft because I decided the whole thing needed rewriting, which is what I'm doing now. So, the words should come out of the second half more easily than the first. At least that's what I'm hoping. If not it will be tighten, tighten, tighten.
Many of my students come into Novel 2 having done short story writing as well. They all know that in a short story every word has to count. But I tell them that every word has to count in a novel as well. There's no room for padding, for flab. We all want to write the best novels we can -- novels that make the readers stay up well past when they want to go to bed, and flabbiness is a surefire way to put them right off. So I'm going to relish my cutting -- that's what editing is about: taking a rough stone and polishing it until it becomes a gem.