Cutting Pages From Your Golden Heart EntryYou've decided on a great ending point, you're ready to print, and your realize, UGH, your Golden Heart entry is too long. For some reason those 55 pages seems like a lot, until it's time to send in your entry - then they're suddenly not enough.
I found myself (all too often) in that same position when it came to contest entries. I developed a strategy that worked for me and maybe it will help you.
First, resist the temptation to reformat your manuscript. 27 lines per page might be acceptable for manuscript submission, but will it be to a judge? I am convinced there are many judges who don't have any training when it comes to judging, and in desperation when faced with 7 GH entries, the way they approach a manuscript is by looking for its faults. If you look like you have unacceptable manuscript format, you've just handed them something to mark you down for. Secondly, you may want to avoid changing the font of your manuscript to Times New Roman. TNR is perfectly fine for an editor, but often a judge will hate it. Once, when I was coordinating a contest, a judge told me she refused to read past a certain amount of pages if an entrant used TNR because she felt they had added pages, and thus had an unfair advantage. Above all, don't mess with your margins!
Okay, so what do you do first. Look at your synopsis, and try to pare it down. The maximum is 15 pages, but honestly I can't think of a single person who actually WANTS to read 15 pages of synopsis. A nice minimum is 5, and I never allowed a synopsis to go past 7. Take out any dialogue, adverbs and adjectives from your synopsis. You do want your synopsis to be as well written as your entry, but most judges want just the facts. With setting, establish time and place and move on.
Now look at your actual manuscript. Scroll through and look for any dangling words that adds lines to a paragraph. Most manuscripts have several. This is the easiest fix - with a few word changes, you can often save yourself a whole page.
Delete all words that are filters, such as could, just, seem and take out the passive was -ing.
Now look at adverbs. Adverbs are often maligned, and I'm a big fan of them, but in this case, they may not be as helpful. Plus, I think adverbs are those "zingers" that judges look for to mark a manuscript down.
Next look at dialogue. Remove anything that looks like casual conversation. Your dialogue should move the story forward and add dimension to your characters. A lot of dialogue I read in contests entries don't fit that bill, so it's an easy catch and cut.
Narrative description. Ahhhh, this is getting harder to cut. As writers we often think each word is important (and it is, it is) but when you're cutting make sure each word, sentence and paragraph is moving your story forward, and adding to the conflict or insight into the characters. Setting details for setting details sake is not evocative writing.
One thing I learned when I made these types of cuts - it didn't harm my manuscript in any way, and in fact made it tighter! So don't be afraid of your own red pen.
Lastly, and this is the hardest point of all. Don't be married to your ending point. You want to end on a place that's dynamic and leaves the reader judge with the feeling that they can't wait to read more. But sometimes you just can't get to that point. Make a second choice or even a third. The ending is important, but you can also leave a great last impression by having compelling writing throughout your entry.
Okay, this is getting long, so feel free to ask a question or toss in your own helpful hint on cutting to make your 55 pages!