I think I've figured it out! I've been mulling over my story for months. I know it's been too thick, too wordy. It's currently sitting at 136,000 words and it needs to come down to 110,000. I've been auditing the manuscript, looking over entire scenes and chapters.
You see, I've done all the little stuff. Remove adverbs, remove the word "that," and a dozen other little tricks to reduce word count. That helped, it really did. I cut out over 10,000 words from the original draft just from little things like that, but in the end, it wasn't enough. Through my audits I've been selecting scenes for deletion, and I have another 10,000 words ready to lose, but... it really broke up the story. So many threads would need to be rewoven elsewhere, so many story elements completely lost. I was losing hope... but then I figured it out.
Well, I hope I've figured it out. Here's my thought: I don't need to cut words, I need to expand. Crazy? Perhaps. But what I'm suggesting is breaking the story into two books. I'll need to write a bunch of new stuff to fill in the gap for the first half, but the second can stand almost on its own. And that will bring down the respective word counts of both stories considerably.
This means I get to go back to my favorite thing: writing! You see, one of the biggest problems that plagued me was the timeline of the original story. It fit logically, I mean I used a calendar to map out every event, but it went quicker than I wanted. It meant that a lot of characters didn't get to be fleshed out the way I wanted and some of the story elements felt a little rushed. But if I let the events of the first book lead into the second, I can stretch out the time line and give everyone a little more wiggle room. And I can do it all without pushing the word count as high as it stands right now.
It's risky, but going over it with my wife, we agreed the new story actually feels better. I get to keep everything I wanted, more or less, but with two books I spread things out a little.
I know this is a bit rambly, but I'm extremely excited. I've been looking for a solution for a while and removing entire sections has been feeling like a bad choice. I know a lot of writers feel like every word is gold and needs to be preserved, but I truly believe that most of the scenes I have are important to the story. With the audits I made of the latest draft, I lost so much in character development and plot. I think this is the best choice. So... time to get back to writing!
Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.