The Ten Percent Rule

Minimalism and brevity come from strict and specific editing.

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Whenever I finish writing a story – whether short fiction or long-form – I trim it down. It’s a rule I’ve held myself and my writing to for a long time, and it always improves whatever I am working on: I remove 10% of the word count.

For a 500 word flash fiction story, that only means 50 words; for a 100,000 word novel, I need to lose 10,000 words. To do so, my editing must be ruthless and my darlings indiscriminately slaughtered.

Cutting 10% of a word count is more than just excising superfluous words; it is rewriting sentences and paragraphs to clarify and minimise. It is looking at every turn of phrase and asking, Is this necessary? It is fearlessly tearing down in order to rebuild better, stronger, slicker, more aerodynamic and effective. It must be carried out without sentimentality.

This is, admittedly, not an easy task, however I find the eventual benefits outweigh the difficulty by some magnitude. To put it simply: less is more.

Seb Reilly is a writer, fiction author and occasional musician. He lives by the sea in Thanet, Kent, with his family and two cats.

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