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Hello, writers. I'm off to a writer's retreat next week, and when I look at the goal that I've set myself for the five days, it seems to work out to writing 6000 words a day.

Can I do this? Physically, probably. I can type 50 – 100 words a minute, depending. So 6000 in a day should be a snap, if the spacebar holds up.

Mentally, probably. I've done a lot of preplanning. The characters and situations exist in a nebulous form in my head, on index cards, and on bubble charts and drawings. In just remains to turn these thoughts into story.

In the bizarre alchemy of writing, who knows? Often-- no, always-- what seemed like a fully-drawn idea in the planning stages turns out to be full of holes once I start writing. Some ideas grow once I start writing. Others shrink, shrivel, and quietly slink away.

In the drafting stage, it's all about word counts. (At least in my process.) Anything goes, as long as it fills out the word count. The point is to get something down on paper.

Once the drafting is over (which in my process is after the third draft) the exact opposite holds true.

Words need to go. At every stage after drafting, from the numerous rewrites to the polishing, words go bye-bye. Scenes vanish. Sentences vanish. Descriptions, especially, get the old heave-ho. Setting is described only as it interacts with characters. Adverbs and adjectives are not our friends. Never use three sentences where one will do.

Cutting is much slower than writing. When I'm drafting, I normally shoot for 2,000 words a day. Cutting 2,000 words can take six days. But as any lapidary will tell you, you have to cut to polish.

As I've said before, I'm enormously impressed by those who have the courage to put their
answers to the “Tonight's Challenge” out there in the comments section for everyone to read. I realize these are done off-the-cuff and hence are usually drafts, not polished work.

Tonight I'd like to ask you please to take a little extra time and try to cut, anyway. Make every word fight for its right to remain.

Please limit yourself to 100 words. If you usually or always ignore this suggestion on the grounds that no one died and left me boss (true enuf), then please, pretty please with capers on top, limit yourself to 100 words just this once. Write as much as you want, but then go through and cut it to 100 words. Because it's a valuable exercise. Trust me on this.

Seriously, I mean you :-).

A character (any character) is in a famous building (any famous building, and you do not have to name it) in the dark. S/he is being pursued.

Absolutely limit yourself to 100 words.

Write On! will be a regular weekly diary (Thurs 8 pm ET) until it isn't.
Before signing a contract with any agent or publisher, please be sure to check them out on Preditors and Editors, Absolute Write and/or Writer Beware.

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Team DFH.

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