I am sure that like many other writers we are given much the same guidance as others and one of the pieces of guidance is to cut cut cut and make your writing as sharp as you can, make every word earn its place.
This is very good advise. Writers should be very harsh and cut wherever they can. I know that many of us can write a lot and make our first draft longer than the “genre norm” so that it is cut back and polished during the proof reading and editing stages. I know that in some of my writing I have to make sure that I do not exceed a standard length and this can be very difficult, well for me it is anyway.
So far I have cut about 1500 words from a first draft but the piece was still a tantalising 324 words longer than he “norm” so I have to revisit and cut again and again.
In doing so I have found two things
1. sometimes repeat myself if not with the same words, but make a scene longer by extending to convey emotional responses and so on when it could be sharper and punchier with just 2 or 3 sentences /pieces of dialogue rather than 6 or 7. This can save 3 or 4 sentences and that could be 40 or 50 words. When every word counts, that is a chasm.
2. When I write first drafts and new writing, I have noticed that I do not write with contractions. I write out “I am” or “I have” and so on when they could be shortened to I’m and I’ve. That is one word instead of two.
This may not sound much but when you are up against a tight word count and need to find 324 words to come out of a 110 page first draft, that’s only 3 contractions per page. It adds up and with the odd repeated or “loose” unnecessary sentence 500 or even a thousand words can be cut without detracting form the story and in doing so the writing is punchier.
Just the things a publisher is looking for, tight writing with no unnecessary words.
So, the next time you are back against the wall on word count, try looking at your contractions and thinking “can I cut anything here, is every word necessary and are there contractions I could use?”
In time, you will almost certainly like the result and if you do, others will probably like it too.