I realize that if any of this makes sense, it might mean also shifting the group name “Regender.” In general, I feel like a little brainstorming on the covert group’s name might be worthy as the word “regender” might invite readers to think about “gender reassignment” issues rather than about the issues of this world and this time … Man, I feel like I’m piling on here… Please know, I would NEVER have given this much thought to this (I’ve been mulling on all this off and on for a few days now) if I didn’t find the writing engaging, the premise super intriguing, or if these issues hadn’t been flagged in the intro to the thread (which I thought was super humble, classy, and thoughtful). I want readers to stay in – and with – the narrative. So, everything I have offered on this particular issue is to serve that goal. I hope I haven’t overstepped and will now move on.
Other people have commented on trimming some words here and there and have given you examples. Because this is something I also struggle with, I wanted to share something more writing philosophy/process oriented because I feel like your version of "too many words" is similar to mine so maybe this might be useful...
When I write, it’s sometimes like I see and feel whole scenes playing out and I’m scrambling to take detailed sketches. Later though, when I’m editing, I look at the way I described things and I realize that my scramble to keep up with my vivid and demanding muse is not the same as making sure a reader has the best parts and stays engaged.
This line about the chickens (a scene I love, by the by) from Chapter 2 stands out for me:
A few chickens seemed keen to join them but soon lost interest and fell back to scratching around for grubs or investigating the feeding troughs.
If this were my writing, I would have seen those chickens following me and written all of it down just as it is here. Then, I would remind myself that the reader has already seen the chickens pecking and has already been introduced to the troughs. We’ve had a lot of fun with the chickens. And it’s funny/endearing and “new” to picture them following, but can I stop it at “but soon lost interest and fell back” or even “but soon lost interest”?
Sometimes, certain kinds of editing feel like I’m surrendering artistry even if I’m glad to do it and grateful when people point stuff out for me to cut. But, when I consciously think about this dance between the needs of my muse and those of a potential reader, I get better at finding them myself. I also feel more like the cuts are a way to respect and honour the art and the muse who offered it to me. This is where intended audience, genre, and personal preference all come to play, too. For example, the lifeboat scene in Chapter 1: given my boat illiteracy and that I am generally less fond of detailed action scenes, it could just say “Finally free of the captain, Joe heaved the boat upside down and right side up until it fell recklessly into the sea” and that would be enough for me because I just want to know where he’s trying to go and why, LOL. For people who enjoy the action-adventure part of things more than I do, more description of these moments is golden and offers opportunities for narrative tension. And now I will end this tome.
I am excited to see where all of this goes next!