Whenever I edit a novel, I always end up with up fewer pages than I started with. Usually several fewer pages-the first draft of Wormwood, Nevada was over 400 pages long and ended up at around 225 pages. I suppose this is because I subscribe to the blast out of the rough draft school of writing and then trust myself to edit the resulting hot mess into something more streamlined and readable. A Top 5 list of things I keep in mind when I edit a manuscript goes roughly like this:
1. Irrelevancies-unnecessary words, sentences, paragraphs, even entire scenes. I try to cut as much as possible in my earliest drafts of a novel, sort of like cleaning your house before you decorate it for a party so you can get a better sense of what exactly your working with before the general public comes over. Cutting the unnecessary might seem like an obvious writer's move, but I can pick up almost any published novel and find spots that could have been trimmed to the overall improvement of the work. Novel-length fiction is, and always has been, filled with an ungodly amount of bloat, and oh, how it chokes. I try to bring more of a short story approach to each chapter I write.
2. Obvious typos and general consistency. Is he blond on page five and then dark haired on page seventeen? Fix that shit!
3. Clunky dialogue. It might have seemed like a good sentence in the novel's creation, but now that the lava has cooled and its really just a bunch of sharp, crappy rocks your characters are spewing at each other.
4. Words I use over and over and over, sort of like a writing crutch. When I notice one of these words, I do a search and replace and either eliminate as many as possible or replace them with other words. Recent offenders include "seemed like" and "fuck".
5. Is this shit boring? Always an important consideration to bear in mind!