Word count can be a daunting number for writers ... especially when you realise your work is too long! Whether you're writing a novel or a short story, it is important to meet your word count requirements. So how can you reduce that number?
Here are a few tips I've used:
1. Contractions are your friend!
Check whether you've used contractions or not and if you haven't, use them! This will immediately turn two words into one. It is very rare that anyone doesn't use contractions in every day speech, so check your dialogue. "I can not do that!" Would you say that in real life? Instead, have your character say "I can't do that!"
However, contractions are okay to use if you really want to make a point. "I can not do that!" But generally, use them in ninety percent of your work.
2. Do you need that speech tag?
'said' is generally an invisible word when you're reading a novel and you generally tag character's speech as such. However, how often do you need to tag speech?
Cutting out your speech tags will significantly reduce your word count. If you have a conversation between two people, then once you've established who is speaking once, we don't need to read 'said Hannah' over and over and over again. After ten lines or so it might be okay to remind the reader of who they're up to in the dialogue, but other than that, most speech tags can be removed.
3. Use stronger verbs and adjectives
Very big. Extremely long. Dark blue.
Huge. Never-ending. Indigo.
Is there one word you can use to describe an action or object rather than two? Not only will this make your writing better and more descriptive, it'll also reduce your word count again!
4. Rachel's 'Really Very Well' Check
This, like in tip three, focuses on using one word instead of two. And cutting out those unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. Type into 'find' one of these words and decide whether they're necessary to that sentence. Here, you may find more 'really long's or 'very big's that you can change. If you're anything like me, characters may say 'well' often at the beginning of speech, which more often than not is unnecessary. By checking these words individually, you may find your word count drop again.
5. Deep Point of View
Deep point of view may not be your thing, but the deeper you get into a character's head, I've found, can also reduce word count. And this means rewriting sentences to remove words such as were and was. "There were red cars parked in the street" becomes "Red cars parked along the road".
Also, deep point of view means removing words such as 'thought', 'realised', and 'saw'. "It was hot today, Mitchell thought as he walked down the street" can be changed into deep point of view such as "It was hot today as Mitchell walked down the street". "Oh no, Mary thought as she realised she'd forgotten her appointment" easily becomes "Oh no, she'd forgotten her appointment!"
Of course, you may not be able to employ these techniques to every sentence, but a deeper point of view throughout most of your story could reduce your word count with the absence of 'was', 'were', 'thought', and many more similar words.
So next time you go through another edit of your work, consider if some of these tips will work for you, identify words that you overuse, and hopefully you'll see that word count number drop.
Thank you for reading!
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