Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Cut It Down

Like many of you, I struggle with cutting words, paragraphs, and sections from my books during the editing process. Which is really funny to me, because I was the girl in college who could barely meet the minimum page count. And as an English major, I had a LOT of papers to write. I hardly ever had too much to say.

But apparently, once I dive into fiction, I can't shut up. When I first set out to write my first novel, I was so afraid it wouldn't be long enough. But I just powered on, one word at a time, and hoped for the best. Well that manuscript currently stands at 107,000 words. So yeah, brevity is no longer a fear.

While I still don't censor myself when writing the first draft of a novel, I know as I slosh through the edits, I need to tighten things up. It helps with pacing and makes the whole thing better to read. But it's still hard to cut. These are my words. Ones I slaved over, stringing together in just the right way. It's hard to cut them out, knowing no one will get to read them.

I struggled with one such paragraph this weekend. It wasn't needed in the story, and I desperately had to find places to cut. The scene read cleaner without it. But I liked the writing. After hemming and hawing a bit, I cut it. It's easier when I tried to think of the manuscript as its own entity, not a part of me. I need to look at it critically and do what's best for the story, no matter how much I love the words.

This is the paragraph {along with 1000 words}:

            "I fumbled around for my keys, hyper-aware of everything around us. The whizz of the cars on the distant highway that could only be heard late at night when the noise of daytime life had long since drifted away. The breeze that hit my face, growing a few degrees cooler each night as summer slowly faded into fall. The florescent light above my door that cast shadows across Drew’s face, making his green eyes pop. Everything about this moment seared itself deep into my memory."

Ultimately the story is better without it. So while it's tough to figure out what to take out, it all works much better in the end. What about you? Do you struggle with cutting?