A friend asked me this weekend to look over & take my axe to a bloated manuscript destined for a high-impact journal. Oof. The manuscript arrived about 40% over the word limit and covering data from two experimentally distinct but thematically linked projects (well, they brought in a third project, which I quickly amputated). Exceedingly interesting theories & data, so I can understand the enthusiasm and desire for a unifying theory manuscript. However, there are those pesky word count boundaries.
Some brief all-purpose advice (some already shared here) comes to mind as I slog through this. Please …. Keep the introduction concise and laser-focused. Don’t restate data from figures & tables in the text (highlight most significant findings, sure), and don’t interpret or comment on data in the results. And take a scapel to interesting data that are not immediately & directly applicable to the discussion in which you intend to engage the reader. Discussions are meant for discussing the significance of results & their place in the current state of the science, not introducing new concepts or plugging other work in your lab (relevant lit citations okay, paragraphs rehashing methods & results not okay). Consider what is most important to convey to your peers and do so in a straightforward, modest manner.