The Expanding-Brevity Method

Word count graph of the novel I Am Not Gog by Matthew James Hunt, through eight drafts.

Most writers complain about writing too much content and having to force themselves to pare away all that is unnecessary in the editing. I’m not like most. I’m the reverse. I was the reverse in the writing and editing of I Am Not Gog, at least. Perhaps, now I have learnt my craft, it will be different next time. I didn’t have to force myself to increase the word count, though, it sort of happened naturally in the rewrites. As you can see from the graph, I started out with a meagre 48,000 words and ended up with over 80,000. That’s adding over 32,000 words. Something must be wrong with me. The last award-winning contemporary literary novel I read started out at 120,000 words in the first draft and came down to 80,000 in the published form. That’s a 33% cut. I got a third of the way in and thought to myself, well, most of that first third could have been hacked away, too, and the book would have been much better for it. I feel that quite often nowadays, so I’m quite comfortable with my expanding-brevity methodology. I’d rather that than waffle-cutting that leaves too much waffle uncut. In his inspirational and very helpful book On Writing, Stephen King talks about a formula given to him early in his career, which he swears by: 2nd draft = 1st draft - 10%. I’m glad it works for him and, after his example, countless others. My formula turns out to be 2nd draft = 1st draft + 14%, or even final draft = 1st draft + 66%, which is double the exact opposite of what the award-winning literary waffler did — she cut by a third, I expanded by two thirds. Horses for courses. That’s all I have to say on this. Time to cut out all this waffle right here.


This is a repository of insights about the novel I Am Not Gog (and future work). There will be new insights every month or so until we have a full library and nothing is left unexplored. If you came here to find out more about the allegory of the novel, start by clicking HERE.

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I Am Not Gog. A novel by Matthew James Hunt.