So now you have your glorious query letter! It’s witty! It’s funny! It gorgeously shows off your character’s voice! Aaaand it’s six pages long. Now what?

It’s time for the hard cuts. You’ve written all of these beautiful sentences, and now you need to make some of them vanish to get it down to the golden window of 250 to 300 words. Fortunately, there are a couple ways to make the trimming down process a little less painful. I’ll show you exactly what I mean below.

  1. Start by eliminating redundant language. Anywhere you find yourself being repetitive, cut it out. 
  2. Make sure your query is focused on just one main story thread: the best friend’s illness the love triangle the protagonist’s primary goal and the obstacles they face.
  3. Anywhere you find yourself getting excessively wordy or your sentences erring on the side of too long or too complex, be diligent in finding ways to simplify your work.  Simplicity is best. If you find a long sentence, try breaking it into two shorter ones.
  4. Look for unnecessary, cluttering adjectives. If they’re not vital to the sentence or plot, they can go.
  5. The same goes for adverbs; look carefully search for them and replace them with stronger verbs.
  6.  Look, also, for unnecessary linking words.
  7. Hunt down filler words. They can be very sneaky.
  8. Actually, almost any word in a sentence that isn’t doing any legwork is fair game.
  9. Check for Name Soup excessive named characters and other forms of jargon. If you have to spend words explaining a concept, you risk going over budget.
  10. Make multiple passes. I’ve found it’s always easier to make a dozen small passes, doing tiny cuts to my wordcount, rather than doing all of it in one go.

If you find it hard to cut your own words, try practicing on someone else’s first. Take a paragraph from a book you like–or, better, one you hate–and trim out all of the unnecessary words to get it down to its core.

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