Virtual Cons Are Just As Exhausting

Well. I ran social media, did tech support/moderation, was on panels, and attended panels all this past weekend.

It was definitely a bit much.

Thursday

I still had my day-job, but after I signed off, my evening was all the last minute prep.

A donation for advertising gave me the go-ahead for some facebook ads on Thursday night. So, I tossed half the money at boosting the ‘Where to find Virtual Balticon’ post, and half at a short slide show, inviting people to the event. We got several thousand views, and a couple hundred engagements — including 5 or 6 people accusing us of spamming them (and my ‘Sorry. fb algorithms are unpredictable’ response led to the complainers accusing me of being a bot. But seriously, if they weren’t going to reply to each other’s ‘spam’ accusation comments, how was I supposed to know they were reading ANY of the comments. I didn’t see a reason to reword my answer to the same exact complaint if they didn’t see fit to reword the complaint).

Then again, we still had plenty of people — many regular Balticon members — that said they didn’t hear about it until half-way through — or after it was all done. Somehow my own mother, despite listening to me ramble about this con on numerous occasions, missed that it was going to be free. *facepalm*

Social media only works so well — and you can only communicate to the people who are on and looking.

Before bed on Thursday, I also scheduled hourly reminders of each panel with links to register. I finished about 4am, after 3 tag-ups with different team members after 11pm.

Friday

Friday morning was helping people log on, and making the moderation schedule (tech had said they would do it, but several emergencies meant they ran out of time).

I’ve never seen Opening Ceremonies before, but when I watched it, I got that ‘It’s Go Time’ feeling, just like I do at a physical con. Only alone. And in silence in my own house. It was very surreal.

I wanted to see all the panels like I normally do, but couldn’t stop myself from making sure everything was still running smoothly on Discord. And helping people sort out how to log-on and talking them through any technical issues.

I have some partial notes from… wow! 11 of the 13 panels/presentations I hit. I didn’t think I did that well.

At first, I tried to get the screenshots from all the techs and post them during the first 10 minutes of the next hour… It only took me 2 hours to give up on that level of perfectionism.

With panels only running until 10pm, I decided I’d just wait until AFTER the last panel of the day, and batch process them. Sure, it wasn’t quite as lively for the social media feed, but they were already getting the hourly schedule. There’s trying to make things convenient for people, and then there’s flooding them.

On Friday, I only hit one panel that I tried to take notes on: the 6pm Writing For Themed Anthologies. The other two, Bad Book Covers and This Kaiju Life LIVE were presentations — or performances — I could just enjoy. Plus? They were after dinner, so the tech support had slowed down by then.

After the final panel, I hit a Discord party or two, hanging out and chatting with con attendees, just like hitting a room party at a con. Only, you had to bring your own drink and snacks. While there, I prepped and posted all the screenshot images, and headed off to bed by 3am.

Saturday

I woke and caught up on the Discord threads and social media before logging onto the 10am You Can’t Shop at Target in Middle Earth only a few minutes late. Next up, I got to hear Nick Martell and Keith DeCandido read some excerpts from their work while eating a bagel. Nick introduced us to his world and characters, and Keith ripped out our hearts.

I was doing tech support, but got to hear most of the noon, Tips for Writing Combat. Then, an hour solo-tasking, and checking all the social media locations to see who needed help. 2pm was storytime with Kingdom of Warrior Women: The Dahomey Kingdom and its Amazons.

I’d considered a few of the 3 and 4 o’clock panels, but ended up just doing Discord and then prepping for my 1st panel at my home convention, and second panel EVER: Dealing With Literary Rejection. We had people who gave rejections, people who received rejections, and people who did both. I had the joy of having the agent I’d gotten my first rejection letter from (via his assistant) on the panel (Joshua Bilmes of Jabberwocky). I did my best to come across as intelligent and well-spoken, and hope I was at least a little entertaining.

After a good hour in the Discord After Panel Discussions room, with some lively chatter, I sat in on Science Fiction Has Always Been Political with some excellent discussion and great examples, and Making Painful Edits. I finished my day listening to some pulpy adventures with Daniel Kimmel and Michael Ventrella.

I took a quiet evening walk around the block, just to move. My back had started tingling, like it was going numb. NOT a sensation I’d felt before. I might should see my chiropractor again…

Then, I visited the tech crew zoom party. While, of course, prepping the screenshot posts and working on outlining my questions for the panel I was going to be on in the morning. Finally, I swung through through the New Media party, just long enough to say goodnight. At half-past-three am. Again.

Sunday

No way to sleep in on Sunday — I was starting off my day with two panels. Sure, 10am sounds perfectly reasonable to most people, but that’s about when I show up to my dayjob, and I don’t usually care if my hair’s dry from the shower or my face is made up before I roll into the office or up to my work-from-home desk. No, I do not own a hair-dryer.

But, I made it, showered and made-up in time for the 9:30am pre-panel check-in. Well, maybe it was 9:32am, but still.

Beta-reading propositions, What Are You In For? By this panel, I started to feel a little more solid with my speaking skills, (although, I think I used the same interjection a couple times.) We’ll see if I’m brave enough to watch it when it rolls out. Then, the after-panel discussion and a quick moderator meeting, before the 11:30 am call for my third and final panel of the weekend.

This time? I was moderating. I toasted another bagel, (cinnamon raisin with plain cream cheese for those of you who are curious), then looked frantically for where I’d put that outline. By the time we had most of the line-up, I followed procedure from what my other moderators had done for me. I asked if the other panelists wanted to hear my questions in advance, read them out, and then asked if they had anything to add. Nothing.

What’s This About A Social Media Presence. I had some solid panelists, including the very chatty Tee Morris who literally wrote the books on social media. Luckily, he knew he had a tendency to chat and smoothly finished his sentence and ceded the floor after each gentle “thank you,” from me. We had a moment of veering into politics (losing one attendee loudly from that, on the chat), but for the most part, it went very smoothly.

In the Discord After-Panel Discussion, Tee complimented my moderation and I admitted it was my first time. Polite or not, I was glad to hear the rest of the panelists thought it had gone well.

I drifted in and out of the Dinosaurs: The Update presentation, then tuned in for most of Momentum for writers and How to Self-Edit That Lousy First Draft.

By the end of that panel? I was FRIED. I wanted to see more. I wanted to support friends and see them chat. But I was DEAD.

Plus? As I reminded myself, I could always rewatch the panels once they went up on Youtube.

So, I swung by the virtual con suite, got myself some hotdogs, and chatted with my dad and another con-goer about guitars until I had food in me. For those who don’t know, my dad usually hangs out in the con suite, and that’s where you go to find snacks and random conversations. That hang out was one of the most-like-a-physical-con aspects all weekend.

And then I NAPPED. For nearly two hours.

I realized when I woke up that I’d never made a special announcement for the film festival, which had gotten its schedule finalized rather late. And that the festival had already started, so it was too late. So, all I could do was announce the Monday 1pm rerun. I’m Sorry Short Film Festival Lovers! I dropped the ball.

But, I made it up in time for most of Choosing Your Perspective and then, because it would NOT be recorded, made sure to take a lot of notes at, Body Disposal – A Primer for Writers. Unfortunately, this presenter has had her presentation stolen, wholesale, 3 times, so I will NOT be sharing these notes publically online.

I did not realize when I went in, that the Body Disposal panel was 2 hours long. And because it was the last presentation of the night, they let it run over and run over it did. I wanted to hit 3 of the zoom parties (closer in feel than I would have expected to the standard room party), but by the time I hopped out of the second one, the third had just gone to bed. At quarter to four in the morning. Again. Whoops!

Monday

I slept til 10:45 am when my alarm went off. I caught up with my alerts, got dressed, and then my alarm went off. That’s when I realized the first alarm was my weekly “don’t forget to sync your fitbit alarm.” Oh well, it’s not like it had woken me up that much early.

At 11:30am, I was hosting my one-and-only zoom session for bluestonearcher’s Reference Like an Artist. He’d been running training for the techs and the panelists for the last two weeks, helping me with documentation and things, so it was fun to run, and I wanted to do it right with my trainer watching. But! I flubbed giving him Any Time Warnings At All. So, he was halfway through a sketch when I messaged, “Um, here’s is your 10, 5, and 1 minute warning.” We managed to wrap with 90 seconds to hand-off the stream so the next panel could go to twitch. WAY too close. Sorry!

I listened in some on Novel, Novella, or Short Story right when that wrapped, getting a scattering of notes. Then, I prepped and listened in on the final panel of the con, Improving Balticon. I logged on in case people had Social Media questions, but no one did.

With the text-only format forcing people to formulate their questions before we got to them, we managed to get through 170ish questions in under 2 hours.

I know many people hated the lack of video/audio from panel attendees, but others LOVED the ability to chat without interrupting the panel. Especially for “what was the name of that book”, but also any side comments. Plus, a lot of people’s bandwidth starts to choke when streaming more than 6 or 8 videos.

During the Improving Balticon panel, I posted the rest of the screenshots our techs had gotten me. On average, 1 an hour. I wanted to be sure the con had faces, not just technology.

And just like that? The con was over. The Discord quieted to a dull roar, I threw together a “Thank You” image to post, and I ordered some Thai for dinner.


I never made it to our Second Life portion — never even installed it on my laptop. Discord was enough of a resource hog.

Virtual Balticon was a massive undertaking, achieved in under 2 months of work. Massive kudos go out to the staff that pulled it together, the panelists/guests who went through all of our training and provided the content, and the fans — without whom, we’d be talking to empty rooms.

Morgan’s Quick Virtual Balticon Round-Up

I learned this weekend that it’s a LOT harder to attend ALL-THE-PANELS when you’re trying to moderate the Discord and monitor all the social media.

I took notes at a few panels, but for most of the ones I hit, I’ll probably want to watch the recording once the closed-captioning is adhered and it’s up on youtube.

A longer post to come, but for my own tracking purposes, these are the panels I managed to make it to: 13 panels/presentations, 1 show, 2 readings, was on 3 panels, and ran tech for 1 panel.

I definitely hit a wall halfway through Sunday.

FRIDAY

6pm Writing For Themed Anthologies
7pm Bad Book Covers
9pm This Kaiju Life LIVE

SATURDAY

10am You Can’t Shop at Target in Middle Earth
11am Readings: DeCandido and Martell
12pm Tips for Writing Combat
2pm Kingdom of Warrior Women: The Dahomey Kingdom and its Amazons
5pm Dealing With Literary Rejection – I WAS A PANELIST!
7pm Science Fiction Has Always Been Political
8pm Making Painful Edits
9pm Readings: Kimmel and Ventralla

SUNDAY

10am Beta-Reading Propositions, What Are You In For? – I WAS A PANELIST!
12pm What’s This About A Social Media Presence – I WAS THE MODERATOR – my first time
1pm Dinosaurs: The Update (90 min)
3pm Momentum for writers
4pm How to Self-Edit That Lousy First Draft
NAP
8pm Choosing Your Perspective
9pm Body Disposal – A Primer for Writers

MONDAY

11am Ran tech for Reference Like An Artist
1pm Novel, Novella, or Short Story


If you managed to hit any of Virtual Balticon, let me know which panels/presentations YOU enjoyed!

I’ll be back again on Thursday with a more in-depth view.

Gearing Up For Virtual Balticon

Memorial Day weekend, I usually hit up Balticon, Maryland’s regional Sci-fi and fantasy con, where I proceed to attend 30ish panels in four days, meet tons of people, and forget what sleep looks like.

This year is different.

In-person gatherings are banned. And? This time, I’m involved. A LOT more involved.

I felt a little self-serving when I decided on this topic for today’s blogpost — but then I looked back and saw that I pretty much ALWAYS do a blogpost on the con I’m about to head to, so that part isn’t out of my usual.

What IS different is I’m working on staff and I’m speaking on panels for this convention.

In case you’re curious about what Morgan’s been up to for the past month and half…

What Is Virtual Balticon?

Before I make this whole post about me, I should probably explain exactly WHAT Virtual Balticon is.

As I’ve told others:

Balticon is the Maryland Regional science fiction and fantasy convention, sponsored by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS). Scheduled this year for Memorial Day Weekend, it has been held annually since 1966. Due to the pandemic, Balticon, unfortunately, could not meet in person this year. The good news? Balticon realized it could go VIRTUAL!

Balticon features discussions and presentations among authors, editors, publishers, artists, filmmakers, scientists, gamers, and, most importantly, fans.  

Virtual Balticon will have author readings, panels, and presentations; science programming, a film festival, watch parties, artists and dealers, a masquerade costume contest, plus, a variety of role-playing, video, board games, and more. You can find Virtual Balticon 54 on Zoom, Discord, Twitch, YouTube, and even Second Life.

My Roles At Virtual Balticon

I’d already applied to be a panelist when programming contacted me, asking for some input. Apparently, attending approximately 30 panels a year, then blogging about them, makes programming think you might have some ideas on panel concepts that work, panel concepts that don’t, and which panelists are totally worth the hour long panel investment for attendees.

So, I attended several working meetings, tasked with data processing and helping contribute to wording panel descriptions.

Separately, my application had already been accepted to panel at the convention.

Then, 2 weeks after the COVID-19 shutdown, Balticon reached out to me and asked if I would run their social media.

They already — and still have — Matt, their social media director who works for the parent organization: The Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS), but the burden to go virtual was more than one man could handle.

Running Social Media

For running social media, I mostly create images and posts for all of our accounts (twitter, instagram, many fb groups/pages/etc). I’m working on 100% consistant branding, but some things take time.

Other departments will let me know when an announcement needs to go out, and I’ll make it. If people contact Balticon for details, I help draft the wording.

I’ve already started scheduling hourly posts to help people find the panels, presentations, and events coming up each hour when Virtual Balticon is in full swing.

I also recorded a “How To…” guide for each of the online applications Balticon is using, and am scheduled to address the technology basics for the Opening Ceremonies.

Our Technology

Since there was no one technological solution for creating this virtual convention, we had to pick and choose our tools.

For our panels, presentations, and many of our events, Shogren Productions donated use of a Business-level Zoom account. Because Virtual Balticon went free, and most of our donations are just going to help pay for the closed-captioning (1 panel per hour, unless someone wants to sponsor us at $2,000 per additional panel/hour), we’ll only have 5 webinars running at a time — so the typical Balticon schedule was cut drastically.

Attendees will have to register here for each event separately, but by using Zoom webinars, we can keep out trolls and bad-actors, and add security to the panel. This does mean that all the people watching can only ask questions via the Q&A window, but all the side comments people love to make? Book suggestions and more? There’s no reason not to toss those all in the attendee chat!

We’re using Discord for most of the “convention hall” space. The Dealers Room, Artists Alley, and Fan Tables can be found there. Plus, the Consuite, after panel break out discussion rooms, tons of gaming rooms (this is Discord, after all), and more. [The gaming can be signed up for here]

Two panels per hour will be livestreamed to either our Youtube [BaltimoreSciFi] or our Twitch account [twitch.tv/bsfsBalticon], with the rest of the recorded panels to come (once we get them closed captioned, using volunteer labor, rather than the paid stuff). Sunday and Monday, you’ll find our Film Festival on there as well.

And, for those on Second Life, or who create a free account, you can join our “Balticon 54” group, and hangout at Balticon station. Many of vendors will also be found there, as well.

All The Training

Now, these technologies are all well-and-good but… before we can run stuff with them, we need to make sure we have enough staff TRAINED.

We need to make sure our panelists can ATTEND.

So, in the transition from physical con to virtual con, the panelists we had space to bring over all had to go through a zoom test session, to make sure they had the audio, video, and internet capabilities to make it even possible.

Matt, BSFS’s Social Media Director stepped up to become our VirtualCon Platform Admin/Expert, helping shepherd us through the process.

We’ve been running 3 practice panel sessions every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for nearly a month to give both our technicians and our panelists opportunities to practice.

One of our artist alley members, bluestonearcher, joined the discord server early and offered to help me make some promo pictures. 2 days later, his teaching background had him volunteering to help run our Zoom training and lighten the load on our VirtualCon admin, taking over those 9 practice sessions a week!

For our Discord Servers, I’ve run 4 training sessions for our Moderators and Admins. I’ve drafted guides for our Vendors, Artists, and Fan Table guests.

Not to mention, of course, all the tech trouble-shooting I’ve done, including three 1am sessions with my dad, helping him try to get a very old, donated web camera working on a linux system. So far, we’ve got the driver installed, the camera working, and the camera option enabled in zoom. Next up? Sort out why the video is blank — but only in zoom.

What Morgan Will Be Up To This Weekend

Working

I will be on discord all weekend, both as admin, and because I’m a chatty sort of person.

Attending panels

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ve probably noticed I have no sense of my limits when it comes to attending panels. I’ve signed up, just like a regular attendee, to see 28 panels. (I thought it was 22, but I’d miscounted.)

Since I often take copious notes at the writing panels, I didn’t want to run tech while watching those panels. However, I did review my schedule, and for the fun-to-watch, but maybe not ‘informative’ ones, let the tech team know they could schedule me as a backup technician. I did take the training after all.

Being ON Panels [the other side of the table!]

And lastly, but CERTAINLY not leastly, I’m going to be on THREE panels. I’m even moderating one of them – my first time moderating a live panel, and my second time ever being a panelist at any convention.

Sat 5pm Dealing with Literary Rejection
Sun 10am Beta-reading propostitions, what are you in for?
12pm What's this about establishing a social media presence (mod)

I hope all of you are planning to have a safe, but fun, and relaxing weekend. And please, feel free to check out balticon.org to find out all the stuff we have planned and scheduled. Let me know if you have any questions… it’s literally my (unpaid) job.

I’ll be back again next week, with more writing tips and writerly musings. Most likely? The Balticon post-con mortem.

Hello, Executive Dysfunction

While some of it is corona-related and some of it is saying ‘yes’ to running social media for Balticon, (less than two months out from the actual event, before they had a virtual plan), the rest is just me.

Hi, my name is Morgan and I have executive dysfunction.

As a kid?

It meant I read five books for fun, instead of the one book I needed to write a book-report on.

It meant doing homework during lunch, for the class right after lunch.

It meant waking up in the night, to make sure I’d done my math homework this time, because my teacher was gonna call my mom if I missed turning it in. Again. (Mom, if you’re reading. I only hit that point once. I promise.)

As an adult?

I’ve learned coping mechanisms.

I find planning and obsessing over the details for big, or even life-changing events keeps me busy and keeps me from panicking until it’s done, and there’s nothing left to be done.

I use online project management tools and artificial deadlines.

I use my joy of momentum of having not broken a streak to pressure myself into doing things – like this blog. And my vlog. And… well. You get the point.

But, right now?

I’m picking off the low-hanging fruit. The tasks I can knock out in an hour or less, where I know what I’m doing and I don’t need to ask for help.

I’m staying up late when I hit the immovable deadlines and making sure I do enough. If only just.

I’ve been sending out author spotlight interviews, when I should be posting them.

I’ve been scheduling tweets 2 weeks away for that convention, instead of chores or things due tomorrow.

I’ve been missing meetings, losing notes, and I’m struggling to stay focused on larger tasks unless I’m actively participating in a collaborative working meeting. Or running the meeting.

And my dayjob is suffering, too. I’m in the meetings. I’m doing the small, easy tasks. And letting those fill my time, instead of the larger projects.

I keep reminding myself that if I break the big stuff into smaller projects, they turn into the easy stuff.

Tips To Help

I’ve struggled before. I’ve been trying to remind myself of my coping tricks.

I keep reminding myself of my “just-5-minutes” approach, where if I make myself focus for that long, I’ll usually keep going until it’s done.

Wait.

When I added the link, it said 15 minutes. Maybe THAT’S my problem. I’m expecting to hit my groove too soon.

Sometimes, I trick myself into being productive by doing it after my bedtime — i.e. I can stay up, but only if I get that task done. I know I’m the one setting my bedtime, but somehow it still works. A little.

It’s helping.


Maybe I have taken on too much.

Maybe I just need to force myself to focus.

But I’m struggling right now.


Do you have executive dysfunction?

I know stress makes things worse, but what other coping mechanisms do you have?


Thank you for reading. Please, share if you can relate, if you found this post helpful.

Tips and Tricks To Fix Word Count Issues

Each type of book has its own expected word count. From chick-lit to epic fantasy, from picture books, to middle-grade to adult, it’s often easier to find traction with agents, publishers, and even readers when your story length meets expectations.

All too often, writers end up with novels that are wildly outside the genre standard and are forced to drastically cut — or add to their novels.

But, before we can get into tips to fix word count issues, we need to talk about what these genre targets are. Let’s break it down. (Thanks, Writer’s Digest)

Word Counts By Category and Genre

The Default Novel Length

According to Writer’s Digest, these days, the average novel is 80,000-89,999 words, with some getting away with being as short as 70,000, and some being as long as 110,000. We all know the exceptions, but there’s a reason they’re not industry standard.

Westerns and Chick-lit tend toward the shorter side. Meanwhile, many memoirs tend toward the long end — although, it’s been said, that is often a sign that the author doesn’t know where to focus their novel and edit.

Before we go any further, just for your own mental calibration, 50,000 words is a 200 page story.

Science-fiction and Fantasy

Fantasy and science-fiction, because of the necessary world building sits a little longer, at 90,000 to 125,000, with 100,000-115,000 being the sweet spot.

Picture Books

Picture books, with their pictures and all, tend to be printed as 32 pages, with 8-pages on a single sheet, that is folded and cut to size. Because of this, there is not much wiggle room for length. 500-600 words is standard, with 1,000 words pushing the limits.

Early-readers

These intro-to-chapter-books tend to max out around 1,500 words, and usually still have pictures on many pages.

Be warned. The market for these is pretty heavily dominated by the publishing companies, with well established series and media-tie-in characters featuring prominently.

Chapter-Books

These are the next step after easy-readers. At 5,000-15,000 words, these are usually read by the 6-9 year-old crowd.

The market for these books suffer the same problems as Easy Readers, though. So, best of luck if you want to break into this market.

Middle-grade novels

Middle-grade novels are aimed at those kids who have moved past chapter books, typically 8 to 12 year olds. They’re split into two groups, Upper Middle-Grade and Lower Middle-Grade.

Lower Middle-Grade is in the 20,000-35,000 words range, while Upper Middle-Grade hovers around 40,000-55,000 words.

YA novels

A lot of stories, particularly many coming-of-age novels are written with young adults in mind, even if plenty of adults are devouring them.

55,000-80,000 is the standard. Some say you can get a little longer, especially in science-fiction and fantasy. But be wary.


Now that we’ve talking about expected word count, we need to address the elephant in the room. Knowing where your novel should be word-count-wise, is one thing, actually doing it is another.

I find that most writers fall into one of two camps — they either under-write and have to fill in the world, or they over-write and have to trim and tighten up their story. And of course, there are those that do both at the same time — too much description, too little character emotions. Too much emotional arch, too little action. Very few writers get it just right on the first try.

But, what do you do when your novel is significantly outside of the expected word count window?

When Your Novel Is Too Short

There are plenty of small things you can do — fleshing out scenes and descriptions, expanding on things you briefly touched on. But when you need a lot of words, you’ve got to do something more drastic.

  1. Add a new point-of-view character
    A new point-of-view character should add a good third to your novel! Just make sure to avoid showing every scene from two points of view.

    I know I like multiple-points-of-view novels best when they’re showing what the characters are up to when they’re not together.
  2. Add a new sub-plot
    Give your main character something else to juggle — be it a deadline, a kid, family issues, or money woes. An additional struggle means additional words.

    Or maybe the sub-plot is for a secondary character. You know, they have wants and needs beyond supporting the main character, and a good friend would give back when they could.

When Your Novel Is Too Long

On the flip-side, there are those stories that have grown out of control. You can always trim the story down, paragraph-by-paragraph. You can remove a tertiary character or ten. But when you’ve got more than a couple of thousand words to cut, you usually need to take more drastic measures.

Let’s start with reversing what I just suggested those under-writers do.

  1. Remove a point-of-view
    Every point-of-view character typically adds another third to the novel — cut their point-of-view, cut the novel length.
  2. Remove a sub-plot
    What you can do to lengthen a novel can be done in reverse to shorten it. Maybe we don’t need our main character to juggle that job, or have to deal with her brother’s issues on top of her own.
  3. Delete secondary or tertiary characters
    Extra characters means extra description and actions and motivations. Removing a character can cut down on that a lot.

    If you can’t simply remove them, see if you can combine them with another character. Movie adaptations do this a lot, because most novels have more than a 2-and-a-half hour movie can show.
  4. Delete scenes
    Maybe you don’t want to do the surgery required for the other options, maybe you’ve tried them all and you still need to trim. In that case, it’s time to remove some scenes from your novel.

Drastically cutting your novel is not for the faint of heart. But, never fear, you’re on the blog of a chronic over-writer. You wrote all of your scenes when you were feeling creative and artistic. They grew from the fertile soil of your imagination. Clearly, they’re all there for a reason and it’s a struggle to pick which of your scenes — which of your children — to cull.

That’s why I try to apply a little logic, to justify the loss of a scene to myself, if for no other reason. (And of course, I save old drafts, just in case I find a new purpose for that scene, later)

3 Steps To Cut Your Novel Down To Size

  1. List out all of your scenes, with a 1-2 sentence description. Scenes. Not chapters.
  2. Rate each scene, with 1 point for world-building, 1 point for progressing the character’s emotional arc, and 1 point for advancing the plot.
  3. Examine the scenes that got 0-1 points and decide if:
    • The story can stand without the scene
    • The scene could be added to, to make it do double duty
    • The scene could be combined with another (underperforming) scene to bring them both up to snuff.

And that’s it. That’s how I cut my first manuscript from 131,000 words down to a slim 79,000. (Well, it’s back up to 90,000… but that’s a different issue.)

It’s agonizing.

Drastically changing the size of your story is hard, but no one ever promised you that writing was going to be easy.


Have you ever drastically changed the size of a story?

Did you use these techniques? If not, please share what your decision process was.

Thanks for reading, and check back next week for more writing tips and writerly musings.