Books Magazine

A New Way To Edit Your Novel

By Robert Bruce @robertbruce76

If you don’t know McSweeney’s, you should, especially if you have a drier sense of humor.

A friend passed this hilarious article along to me last week.

Did you know you can edit your novel using math?

According to McSweeney’s, you absolutely can. Here’s several of examples:

With scissors, cut out all unique words used in the novel. Put these words in a bowl of water for three minutes. Words that do not float should be removed from the text immediately.

Add a point every time your characters are active. Subtract a point every time you describe feelings or the scenery. At the end, if you did this right, you should have the number 347.

Make a graph of the important nouns and verbs in novels by William Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy, or Ernest Hemingway. Do the same for your novel. Stare at graphs and draw conclusions.

Spend a day removing extraneous incidents of “that,” “just,” and “but” from your novel. Calculate how many hours it takes you to do this task. Multiply that number by three, and you will know how many hours you spent writing those words in the first place. Despair.

Go read more ways to edit your novel with math.


Now I’m wondering if I can put this to work with nonfiction?

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