Lean, Mean, Writing Machine

Writing is brutal. First, you sit down and open your soul, letting it bleed onto a page in stark black and white. You bare your feelings, your ideas, your deepest fears, for the world to see. You let spill out things you’d never want your mother to see. But there it is– real and tangible– right in front of you.

When you think it cannot get any scarier, along comes the editing, and that’s when the real pain begins. You change a few words here and there. You take out the adverbs. You double-check the passive voice. You inspect every sentence for point-of-view. But it’s not enough. There is still too much there. You’ve used the Exacto knife, but now it’s time for the cleaver.

1. Does that sentence (or phrase or word, or even character or scene) contribute substantially to the story? If not, cut it out.

2. Is the same information provided elsewhere in the story? If so, cut it.

3. Can it be better shown (show, don’t tell) through action or dialog? If so, do that.

It’s tough to dissect. Leaving sometimes as much as half of your story– half your heart– on the floor is critical to keeping readers engaged. No pain, no gain is easy to say. It’s much harder to do. In the end, though, the final product is worth it, because editing is not about being critical of your work. It’s about making it even better.


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