Nancy's Books

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Trimming Excess Words

Sometimes, we have to establish the right mindset to cut words from our manuscripts that we’ve worked so hard to write. The action is not as painful as slicing off a finger, but it pains just the same. Yet the pain is worth the cut when our work becomes tighter and more focused.

Determine your target word count. Children’s books are quite specific in this area. Some books extend the limit (Harry Potter, for example)  but for those of us who don’t have an enormous fan base and are not selling a gazillion books, stay within the specified word count. The numbers vary according to publishers. Check websites before submitting.

Check adverbs, those sneaky ly-words. Are they needed? Would a stronger verb work better?

Adjectives can be used in multiples (The big, giant, enormous ball…) but would one work? Sometimes, in children’s books we intentionally use multiple adjective and they work beautifully, but other times one  works just as well.

Overly descriptive passages slow the action. If you do not want to slow the action, cut some of the details that detract the reader.

Passages that tell the reader what s/he already knows can be cut to make a tighter, more focused story.

Next week, children's author Stephanie Burkhard will visit this blog to discuss writing picture books.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Stone Soup is a magazine of writing and art by kids ages 13 and younger. We publish stories, poems, book reviews, and illustrations, all by young writers and artists. Stone Soup welcomes submissions from young people up to and including age 13. If you live in the U.S. or Canada, you must submit your work by postal mail.
Submission guidelines at for Submissions for Young Writers:

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Share your special stories about the holiday season—including Chanukah and Kwanzaa — from inspirational and joyous, to heartwarming and humorous. Remember, all the stories in our Christmas books are “Santa Safe” — we don’t want to spoil the magic for children. This title was previously posted as “Stories about the Christmas Season.” If you submitted a story for that title it will be considered for “Merry Christmas!” Maximum 1,200 words. Pays $200 and ten copies.
Deadline: March 31, 2015.


  1. What? You mean not every one of my beautiful words is necessary??? Okay. I get it. Thanks for some good reminders.

  2. Every word I write seems to be what I think an editor is looking for; however, editors have different opinions. Oh, woe, how do I convince them that I'm right and they're wrong.

    Hang onto those beauties, Rosi, because they may work perfectly in another manuscript. How goes the writing with you? I'm still puttering along with chapter books and have begun a picture book.