Tag Archives: shorten manuscript

the magical manuscript diet


Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

I can’t take too much credit. I discovered it by accident really.

Here’s how it all went down . . . I wanted to read the entire first chapter of my middle grade novel at an open mic night. The trick? I had to limit myself to three pages. My chapter was four pages.


Short of inventing Spanx for manuscripts, I commenced with some serious word whittling. I chopped. I reworded. I juggled and massaged.

Au revoir to adverbs!
G’bye to gerunds! (words ending in ing)
Adios adjectives!
Toodles to too much backstory!

I made every word plead for its life. When I was done, I’ll be darned if I didn’t even miss what was missing.


What if I went through my entire manuscript with virtual Ginsus, slicing and dicing like a Benihana hibachi chef. I became a knife-wielding word Ninja. A word whopping warrior princess. A slasher of syllables. I laughed in the face of paper cuts. I was, phew, I was exhausted.

But in the end, my manuscript was tighter, brighter and more focused. The Magical Manuscript Diet worked because I was willing to do the work.

How about you? Let me challenge you to revisit even one chapter in your current work in progress. See if you can shave off a page.

That’s the magic of revisions – every cut is necessary, and every cut hurts, but something new always grows.
~ Kelly Barnhill