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Friday, June 20, 2014

Can you throw out your precious words?


We all digress. That's why authors need editors. Long before I hand my manuscript over to an editor, I find sentences, phrases, even whole paragraphs that need to be cut. Sometimes, entire pages become useless. If I don't cut those unnecessary passages, the editor surely will.

Writing is all about rewriting. Focus and clarity form a stronger book, creating a story that will hook readers and keep them turning the pages. It doesn't matter whether a manuscript is 60,000 words long or 100,000. Authors need to avoid going off on a tangent. Every scene should advance the plot.

There are some authors who have digressed, including long passages in their manuscripts that they could have left out. For instance, Victor Hugo in Les Miserables really should have written a separate nonfiction book about the sewers of Paris. :-)

I tend to wander away from the plot, too. It's easy to do, especially since I love writing narrative.

Since I hate to toss out my precious bon mots, I make up a special document for them. Each of my books has a corresponding file labeled SCRAPS. As I trim my manuscript, I cut out the parts I don't really need and paste them into my scrap document. There they remain, safe and sound.

Often, after the book is published, I'll go back and revisit the scraps I saved. I'll have a good laugh and delete the file.

Not every word is precious.

2 comments:

Unknown said...

I also tend to write way too much. When I was writing papers for school, my rule of thumb was to write whatever I wanted to write the first time around...and cut out about a third of the content before submitting it. I ended up with a much more tightly-written paper that the one I started with.

Penelope Marzec said...

Julie Merrin,

That's one way to do it. :-)