Sub-editing 101: Any Given Sunday

For the budding novelist the problem is getting enough words into your manuscript to reach that mythical 100,000 mark so beloved of publishers. Yes, a story is as long as the proverbial length of string, but publishers prefer a manuscript that is long enough to put the author’s name on the spine and readers want something that won’t blow away in a sudden gust of wind.

Short stories and flash fiction are another story. Preparing them for competitions or publication usually comes with a strict word count rule. Remember, every one of your words can be changed or lost. Don’t be so precious. If you cut it, then weep uncontrollably for a day or two, it’s worth putting it back in.

With that in mind, here’s a subbing masterclass of a well-known monologue. I’ve discussed Quint’s speech from Jaws elsewhere, so I’ve gone with another great piece of writing. John Logan and Oliver Stone nailed the locker room speech in Any Given Sunday. The text weighs in at 478 words. Imagine if it had to be cut to 300, 200, or 100 words. It can be done. It may lose pace and feeling… but it can be done.

Full speech – 478 words

I don’t know what to say really. Three minutes to the biggest battle of our professional lives all comes down to today. Either we heal as a team or we are going to crumble. Inch by inch play by play till we’re finished. We are in hell right now, gentlemen believe me and we can stay here and get the shit kicked out of us or we can fight our way back into the light. We can climb out of hell. One inch, at a time. Now I can’t do it for you. Al PacinoI’m too old. I look around and I see these young faces and I think I mean I made every wrong choice a middle age man could make. I uh… I pissed away all my money believe it or not. I chased off anyone who has ever loved me. And lately, I can’t even stand the face I see in the mirror. You know when you get old in life things get taken from you. That’s, that’s part of life. But, you only learn that when you start losing stuff. You find out that life is just a game of inches. So is football. Because in either game life or football the margin for error is so small. I mean one half step too late or to early you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow or too fast and you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They are in ever break of the game every minute, every second. On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves, and everyone around us to pieces for that inch. We CLAW with our finger nails for that inch. Cause we know when we add up all those inches that’s going to make the fucking difference between WINNING and LOSING between LIVING and DYING. I’ll tell you this in any fight it is the guy who is willing to die who is going to win that inch. And I know if I am going to have any life anymore it is because, I am still willing to fight, and die for that inch because that is what LIVING is. The six inches in front of your face. Now I can’t make you do it. You gotta look at the guy next to you. Look into his eyes. Now I think you are going to see a guy who will go that inch with you. You are going to see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team because he knows when it comes down to it, you are gonna do the same thing for him. That’s a team, gentlemen and either we heal now, as a team, or we will die as individuals. That’s football guys. That’s all it is. Now, whattaya gonna do?

300 words

I don’t know what to say. Three minutes to the biggest battle of our professional lives comes down to today. Either we heal as a team or we crumble. Inch by inch play by play till we’re finished. We are in hell, gentlemen, and we can get the shit kicked out of us or we can climb out of hell. One inch, at a time. Now I can’t do it for you. I’m too old. You know when you get old in life things get taken from you. You find out that life is just a game of inches. So is football. Because in either game life or football the margin for error is so small. One half step too late or too early you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow or too fast and you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. On this team, we fight for that inch. We CLAW with our finger nails for that inch. Cause we know when we add up all those inches that’s going to make the fucking difference between WINNING and LOSING between LIVING and DYING. In any fight it is the guy who is willing to die who is going to win that inch. If I am going to have any life anymore it is because, I am still willing to fight, and die for that inch. That is what LIVING is. The six inches in front of your face. I can’t make you do it. You gotta look at the guy next to you. You are going to see a guy who will go that inch with you. That’s a team, and either we heal now, as a team, or we will die as individuals. That’s football. Now, whattaya gonna do?

200 words

I don’t know what to say. Three minutes to the biggest battle of our professional lives comes down to today. Either we heal as a team or we crumble. We are in hell and we can get the shit kicked out of us or we can climb out of hell. One inch, at a time. I can’t do it for you. I’m too old. pacion2Life is just a game of inches. So is football. In life or football the margin for error is so small. One half step too late or early you don’t make it. The inches we need are everywhere. On this team, we fight for that inch. Cause when we add up all those inches that’s the fucking difference between WINNING and LOSING, LIVING and DYING. In any fight it is the guy who is willing to die who is going to win that inch. That is what LIVING is. The six inches in front of your face. Look at the guy next to you. You’ll see a guy who will go that inch with you. That’s a team, and we heal now, as a team, or we will die as individuals. That’s football. Whattaya gonna do?

100 words

The biggest battle of our lives comes down to today. We are in hell and we can get the shit kicked out of us or we can climb out of hell. One inch, at a time. The inches we need are everywhere. Those inches are the difference between WINNING and LOSING, LIVING and DYING. LIVING is the six inches in front of you. Look at the guy next to you. You will see a guy who will go that inch with you. That’s a team. We heal now, as a team, or we will die as individuals. Whattaya gonna do?

50 words

Get the shit kicked out of us or climb out of hell. One inch, at a time. Inches are everywhere. LIVING is six inches in front of you. The guy next to you will go that inch with you. Heal as a team, or die as individuals. Whattaya gonna do?

Tweet (140 characters)

LIVING is six inches in front of you. Guy next to you will go that inch with you. Heal as a team, or die as individuals. Whattaya gonna do?

1 word

Inches.

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