A newbie (me, unfortunately) is having a bit of an issue with her MS. Cuts need to be made (my darn novel is a porky 130,000 words). But every time I start cutting out my protagonist's funny little comments or thoughts that don't necessarily add to the plot, I feel like I'm betraying and/or losing my beloved character and replacing her with a streamlined, made-for-the-market version of her. On top of that, the only person who's seen my work says that the things I'm cutting really are unnecessary and need to go to make it more "effective."
As someone who's probably dealt with many authors in this dilemma, do you think I'm just being overprotective of my character, or is there merit to my madness? At what point should an author listen to her gut over the advice of more experienced writers?
First, dear Newbie, kudos to you for identifying that 130,000 words is probably too long (and not taking affront, like the gentleman I encountered at that event last week, who insisted not a word of his 280,000-word ms was unnecessary). For those who want further discussion re: word count, I refer you here.
Now, Newbie, I identify three separate issues in your question:
2) character integrity
3) trusting your gut over advice
I shall address these in order.
First, over-volume. Lots of people write too long--I think it's about 6 times as common as writing too short--so you must not feel alone in this. In almost all of these cases, it's excess wordage in a sentence, not excess plot or excess character development, that leads to the the bulk (or "pork," if I may borrow your word). Unfortunately, whittling writing down to the bare necessities takes a lot of practice and, in 98% of cases, a second pair of (ruthless) eyes who can help point out your personal bulky passages. If you're striking what you see as important material, my question is can you take what's important and say it in fewer words.
Second, character integrity. Here's the thing: you, the author, need to know EXACTLY what your character would do in ANY situation in the ENTIRE universe, known and unknown. You have to know how s/he would react at a disco, riding a camel across the Sahara, abducted by aliens, and with a bad hangover. However, no one else but you needs to know all these details. Creating art is never as much a matter of sharing interesting details as it is a matter of choosing banal details not to tell. Quirky, delightful, and lovable are all great--even if they're not strictly necessary to the forwarding of the plot. So don't cut willy-nilly things you don't *need* for plot. But do cut things that are dear to you because you're so pleased you know them abotu your character, but maybe aren't so dear to anyone else.
As for how the first and second point come together: I would recommend that in any case you see if you can't tighten up some of the "telling" prose to see how many words you can lose on the "natural fluff" that tends to pad most of our manuscripts. Then, ask yourself carefully whether some of these beloved character quotes that you're hurting to cut might be "natural fluff" themselves. Beloved natural fluff we call "darlings," and darlings, alas, MUST DIE!
Most people can't do the darling daignosis all on their own. That's where you ask for help from people whose judgment you trust. Which brings us to #3.
Third, trusting your gut. Well, that sounds like a complicated question that needs some kind of rubric, or at least a checklist. I'm afraid this is a separate post for a separate day! Perhaps next Tuesday.