Yesterday, I was doing a bit of research on editing as it’s a dragon I will soon need to face with pen in hand. While looking for tips I came across references to a book on self editing called The 10% Solution by Ken Rand. Intrigued, I began to look into it and soon found that the secret to the book really can be summed up by the title.
Simply put, his technique is simply to take what you’ve written and cut out 10% of it.
Now, there’s more to it than that, and he apparently goes into fair detail about how to do it in the book, but the basic principle seems pretty sound to me. That 10% isn’t about randomly removing chapters, but trying to tighten up your prose by getting rid of any extra words and working to make your sentences as compact and active as they can possibly be. If you think about it, in the process of doing this you would probably end up fixing a lot of your grammar errors and typos just by virtue of pouring over the document so many time trying to get it to that golden 10% off mark.
When I start my book editing in a month or so I will first be doing a couple revision passes to work on the big stuff, but when I’m ready for the line editing I think I’ll give this technique a whirl. The worst it’s going to do is make the life of my proofreaders easier, and that’s hardly a bad thing!