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Word Count Woes (and handy tricks to help)

I have been advised many times to keep my word count below 95,000. This is the max for any psychological thriller, ensuring the pace remains high and the hooks frequent.

So, now that I have finished this bad boy (in theory) I am doing the laborious tasks of getting that word count down. Ideally, I need to lose 7,000 words. It is tough. Really tough.

To start with I have already rewritten and edited each chapter to within an inch of its life, ensuring that I only add description when there is a distinct need or purpose, that nothing has been repeated, the pace is high and the dialogue tight. But, as I’ve written before (here), it is hard to kill your darlings! I really don’t like deleting these carefully constructed sentences.

To help, I am trying to stick to the golden rules of word count reduction:

  • Remove adverbs unless they are imperative.
  • Remove adjectives, especially when you have used two or three to describe one thing. Try to be word specific, finding that one elusive adjective that sums up the noun perfectly rather than a long list.
  • Reword to remove prepositions such as ‘in,’ ‘at,’ and ‘of.’ It may only be a word at a time that you remove, but that all add up!
  • Remove ‘that.’ Often referred to as the most commonly overused word in the English language, the word ‘that’ creeps in frequently and often, if you delete the little bugger, the sentence still makes perfect sense.
  • Compound verbs can be a life saver, especially in dialogue. Would your character really say ‘have not’ or could you reduce your word count by using ‘haven’t’ instead?

These are the tricks I’m using and I’m pleased to say they are working a treat. Try them yourself and see the difference.


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