Friday, May 21, 2010

Deleting your lovely words

I hate to delete anything I've written because I'm one of those writers who write tight and struggle for my word count. Maybe a habit from writing so many short stories.

But I've gone through some tough stuff this week.

After some feedback from other writers, I've finally given in. If I want my work to shine, I need to be prepared to cut more than a word or a line here and there. I need to delete, yes, DELETE, whole chapters.

Let me pause here a second to catch my breath.


I need to be willing to cut the words I tried so hard to make beautiful. I need to slice out the parts that don't even move the story or are over dramatic. I need to most of all---

Start my story where it should start.

Yeah, that one was hard to swallow. But after reading a post on Twitter, I became convinced.

Look out. I'm finally slashing. Because in the end, we want our work to be the best it can be. Even if it means revising in ways we've avoided.

I'm a believer.

How long did it take you to cut huge chunks from your baby?


Journaling Woman said...

Think of it as a new haircut. You'll grow to like the new. :) I don't mind cutting words, unless I think they are brilliant.


Wendy Paine Miller said...

Still learning.

Was it Janet's guest post? It was fantastic and gave great insight about beginning a novel at the right place. I think it was on CJ's website.
~ Wendy

Rita's Random Ramblings said...

I think writing short stories, with a low max word count, helped. One writing course I took called it" cutting out the little darlings." Sometimes, it's the sentences we loved writing that need to go, and it can be painful. The end result is worth it.

Jeanette Levellie said...

It is painful, Terri. Like your babie's first haircut, huh?

I'm proud of you. So is Jesus.

Lovely weekend,

Lin Floyd said...

progress is painful

Deborah said...

I'm a songwriter, so it may be a little different, but when I cut lines, I don't delete them....I save them never know when those deleted words may fit in a future writing project....or be the beginning of a new one.

Georgiana said...

It is SOOO hard to cut words. I call it WADS--Word Attachment Disorder. Blogged on it one time, and you know, we are not alone!

Billy Coffey said...

It's hard to kill your darlings, isn't it? I had to cut 10,000 words from my first manuscript. It was painful. But it was so worth it in the end.

Keli Gwyn said...

Terri, making friends with the delete key can be tough. I admire you for your willingness to examine your story and identity those words, sentences, paragraphs (ouch), scenes (OUCH), and chapters (OUCH) that need to go.

When I received my agent's Revision Notes earlier this year, I learned that I had a major plot problem at the 1/4 point, which required me to delete 86K of my 111K words. I'm rewriting 75K of them to get to a target of 100K.

Was bidding that huge chunk of my story farewell hard? You betcha! But it was necessary. Did I grieve? Oh, yeah! How did I get through it? After I moped around for a week, I faced the facts and got to work.

I began plotting a new rest-of-the-story to go along with my catchy beginning and got to know the stronger, more engaging characters my hero and heroine needed to become. And I saved the deleted chapters, all 25 of them, in a file called Mined Material. (Can you tell I live in California's Gold Country?) Somehow, setting my words aside in a separate file took the sting out. Plus, I knew that they were there ready for me to revisit if I found a place for them in the new story. I have gotten to resurrect 2,000 of them, but the rest of the story is new material.

Is deleting so much of my story worth it? Absolutely! Would I do it again? I'd rather not. For that reason, I've become more of a plotter. I don't like the idea of writing material that has to be cut, so I intend to do more work before I begin so I don't wear out my trusty delete key. I know I'll always have to tighten and that cutting can help improve my story, but my 86K lesson has taught me a few things. :)

Andrea said...

I am currently a work in progress, however, I find it much easier than I did a few years ago.


Cindy said...

I'm still working this one. I had to a little bit with my last story, but it wasn't too difficult because it wasn't a part I was completely in love with. I hope I can take it all in stride in the future.

Jan Cline said...

Im so glad you are happy with your decision. YOu know I slashed my first chapter and I am very glad I did. Its like cutting off a finger, but it workds.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I don't know, but now I don't even flinch when I delete - sometimes I don't even save what I delete...lawd!

Jill Kemerer said...

You can do it! Sometimes it's just a portion of a scene that needs to be cut. Don't throw the whole thing away!

Have a great weekend!

Sally said...

Think of it as lifting weights in search of that healthier body. Don't like to do it but love the results.

Elana Johnson said...

Not that long, surprisingly. Once I realized I could cut 25,000 words (95 pages) and still live then it was nothing. I slice and dice and delete like nothing. Okay, it still hurts sometimes, but usually what I write after deleting is so much better, the pain is dulled. A little.

Karen Lange said...

Work in progress on this one!
Have a great weekend:)

Mariel said...

..kinda like pruning, huh? The more you cut, the more fruitful later! ;)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Terri -

Having started out with devotionals and short stories, I can relate.

When a journalist told me my story started on page 10, I gulped. Then I went home and re-wrote. It sure hurt, but the story is so much better.

Susan :)

T. Anne said...

I'm doing this now. My tip for you is create a "cut" file and move all your huge cuts over. I also create different files for each edit. So the first draft is title_A the second title_B and so on. Trust me on more than one occasion I've forgotten which one was the final draft until I implemented this system. (OK you might have just inspired a blog post.) I heart you. How's your mom?

Anonymous said...

I still write short so I haven't had to yet delete whole chapters. But I feel for you Tiffany. A writer friend of mine described editing and deleting as 'killing her babies.' Yikes!
But know you are still creating even as you delete. It's all part of the process. Like many other 'stuff' in life, sometimes we need to pull a few small blooms, to allow the healthy sprouts a place to grow more and share their beauty.

Diane said...

Praying that the final product will be a masterpiece for you! :O)

Heckety said...

That is really really difficult and takes courage and determination.

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

I've been thinking a lot about my recent work I've just finished. I need a better start and more flow between each reflection. I know what I want it to be, but post finish, it needs some tweaking. Some cutting. Some rewriting. Right now, I've not the energy for it, but I will.

Blessed Sabbath rest, friend.


Emily said...

I entered the ACFW's annual contest last year, and I believe all three of the judges said that after reading the sample for the contest, they didn't know what the main conflict was. That was the push I needed to say good bye to my first few chapters (I think it was four chapters?). Though I still miss one particular line that fell victim to the cuts, I'm not going back. The novel is soo much stronger for the revision. I hope your cuts benefit your story just as much!

Lily Robinson said...

I still haven't done it! I've been quite busy lately, and my book is on the sidelines as my new grandson is my priority right now.

As soon as I can manage it, that is the task that awaits me... slashing! ...several chapters! I can't bear to think about it, but I decided long ago that it needed to be done.

I think the hardest part for me is, as you mentioned, word count. Just when I'm feeling like I've gotten somewhere, I'll be back to the middle. I'll get over it. I have to.

Jessica Nelson said...

Is this the one you have a full out on? Or a different one?
Like you, I tend to write short and have to work at lengthening my stories.
I did have to cut about 10k on my historical because I'd written it for LIH and at first their word counts were 75-85, then they lowered them to 70-75k.
I haven't had to cut anything on my other ones, but that's just so far. :-)

Good luck! Painful stuff, but not so bad when you know it's the right thing.

Jennifer Shirk said...

I do a little at a time, but always save it in another document just in case. But I've never gone back to that document to put anything back in. :)

sanjeet said...

It is SOOO hard to cut words.
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