As of today, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century is exactly 250,000 words long. I placed a mousie toy on top of the manuscript to keep the kitties from losing interest and wandering away. My editor and I are looking for a similar device that will work on human beings. It's a big day: I've met the goal I set for myself twenty months ago, when, having finished a rough draft, I ran it through Word Count and discovered to my horror that I had produced 390,000 words. As you can see in a picture taken on that dark night, Penelope was frightened as well:
Midway through the editing process, I started making a record of how much I'd cut on any given day. The doleful document reproduced below is a souvenir of my progress. As you can see from a couple of figures at the very top, one of the chapters — the one devoted to Stravinsky — initially ran to 37,700 words, which is just hilarious. Kids, if you're writing a book, don't tell yourself blithely that "all this can be trimmed down later." Still, it was a necessary process, and I'm sure I'll find use someday for the section about English folksong-collecting and the five-paragraph analysis of Billy Budd and so on. Now I have to streamline the notes, incorporate massively helpful suggestions from a team of readers, reread and rewrite as necessary, continue cutting as necessary, and run the remainder of the gantlet, until, at long last, it's over.