Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Chop, Chop!

Here's my typical book-drafting process:
  1. Come up with brilliant idea.
  2. Obsess about brilliant idea.
  3. Create incredibly elaborate world around brilliant idea.
  4. Immerse myself in incredibly elaborate world based on brilliant idea.
  5. Decide brilliant idea is crap.
  6. Rethink entire idea.
  7. Find one detail that fixes it all.
  8. Re-immerse myself in imaginary world.
  9. Write, write, write, write, write.
  10. Despair when I get to end of story and realize I've written 105,000 words, nearly twice the number of words in an average chick lit novel.
Oh, dear!

Time to be ruthless. Time to hack and slash. Time to make that backspace key my bitch.

Only... I love every single word! How do I choose which ones can stay and which ones have to go? More specifically, how do I choose which 15,000 words aren't going to make the final cut?

This is when I spend about a week or two deleting a word here or there on each page. Then I graduate to full sentences ("Oh, that's redundant, I guess"), and eventually, I progress to paragraphs. Pretty soon entire chapters are gettin' the ax! Everything must go! It can get pretty gruesome.

I've learned the hard way over the years to save the 105,000-word monster before I start hacking off its limbs. That way, if I get too carried away, I can resurrect the beast. Or at least part of it. I know I've truly made the right choices for the story if I can cut something I loved but that didn't add to the finished product. I have to say, though, it's even better if I can find a way to make the parts I love indispensable to the plot.

And if everything goes well, the briefer version ends up being twice as good as the original. Verbosity does not necessarily equal quality. So often, less is more. And nothing feels better than finally figuring out where to cut, where to condense, and where to keep the original brilliance, as-is. Those are the kind of days that remind me why I love to write.


  1. We all hate the dread "editing process," but as you've so ably illustrated, being a real writer is all about letting things go -- even the stuff that we really, really, really love.

  2. Like I said, ruthless. That's me.