Last lap: cutting words and finding numbers

Photo by erikadotnet on Flickr. Some rights reserved

I’m in what ought to be the final lap of drafting the book: I handed in a first draft in mid-July (about three weeks late). The target: 70,000 words. What I delivered: 101,000 words, though that didn’t include tablets, and of course given the timing didn’t include Apple becoming the highest-valued company in the world ahead of Exxon, nor Steve Jobs resigning.

And because of the length thing, I left out the issue of tablets altogether – except that after discussions with my publisher it’s clear that they have to be in there, so what was just going to be a section entitled “Smartphones” will instead, I think, be called “Mobility”, and mix the two together.

I’ve been given some room for maneouvre: I’m allowed 85,000 words. The plan is that publication is scheduled for March/April 2012. So delivery has to happen by the first week of October.

The other challenge, of course, is that I have to cut the number of words by 16,000, while expanding it to include those new things. Cutting out while also clearing up what’s not quite worded correctly turns out to be very tricky. Compared to the enormous amount of data and detail out there on the web – the interviews, the analyses, the raw numbers – the act of compression down to 85,000 words to cover slightly more than 14 years (from 1997 to the present day) is …challenging.

But I just thought I’d say a quick thank you to all the people who helped on Twitter when I asked about the number of employees in Google in mid-2003 (it’s a key date in Microsoft’s search history). Apart from one grumpy response of “I thought you were paid to do the articles yourself”, people pitched in with lots of helpful data. Special thanks to @Angharadbyrne who pointed me to Google’s financials for 2003 (offered, I think, as part of its pre-IPO data), where the answer comes up pretty quickly: 1,100 people. That was about twice as many as Microsoft had gone on its crash project to come up with a rival for Google, begun in January 2003.

Oh, that and far more to come….

Meanwhile, if anyone has experience of chopping words out of book drafts while refining the content, please tell.

Bonus link: – some quite good stuff in there.


About charlesarthur

Freelance journalist - technology, science, and so on. Author of "Digital Wars: Apple, Google, Microsoft and the battle for the internet".
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Last lap: cutting words and finding numbers

  1. Em Comments says:

    Hi Charles

    Why on earth does your publisher require you to finish by October if they are not publishing until April? It didn’t take us more than two months when I doing it 20 years ago – yes I know they have to plan for it. You have almost this years Frankfurt Book Fair (12-16th Oct). If your publishers are going (or your agent) make sure they have some sort of copy to take.

    As to reducing the word count whilst refining – get someone else to do it, you are too close. For a small fee …

    Good luck.

  2. Em Comments says:

    Sod it (no comments edit again!)

    “You have almost MISSED this years”

  3. charlesarthur says:

    @EMComments – well, the publisher has the giant script (as they call it) which can be touted around, so Frankfurt isn’t a problem. I’ve no idea why there’s the pause, but one suspects they have to figure out what to slot in where – bit like CD releases, which can’t all happen at the same time.

    As to the cuts – well, I have a couple of people reading it offering advice..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s