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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Slash and Burn Baby! IWSG September 2017



 It's IWSG Day.  The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. The brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader.  To read posts from other members, click here.



My lesson for this month? Not to let words get in the way of the story. Just when I think I’m there, really there, I see my exquisite stunning, clever, creative too many words slo-o-o-o-w the narrative. Cut, cut, cut.
 
It really is true. When you take a breather from your manuscript you find all sorts of issues. Honest to God, I thought this one was done. But now I see. As lovely as the metaphors are, I have to backspace over them if they aren’t doing anything. If a sentence isn’t adding to a scene, I need to acknowledge it and delete it. Tough love, baby. Killing my darlings? Oh yes. I've become a slasher. If the paragraph doesn’t propel the reader to ask, “Golly, gosh, what’s going to happen next?" I'm taking a razor to it. I’ve found scenes I’ve agonized over that, after multiple edits, have become superfluous. I can’t pretend I don’t twitch before I do it, but finally I get there. Sayonara baby. Adios. Bye, bye.

A confession? The poet in me loves descriptive language. But the same way a poem needs to be pared down to its essence, I have to shave extraneous words from my novels. I’m learning the hard way (as in, agent rejections) that if there is one scintilla of something in there that might lead to a yawn, it’s time to kick that flowery padding to the curb. 

Sigh.

It’s been a lot of work lately and my toes are getting sore.

19 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You need a foot massage.
Just think how much better the stories will be when you finish.

Chemist Ken said...

I have some great stories to tell, if only the darn words didn't get in the way. I spend probably 90% of my time trying to figure out how to convert what I see in my head into words on the page. I have to take lots of breathers in order to be objective about my work. Crit partners help too. Good luck with killing those darlings.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Good for you for slashing. I'm not a descriptive writer like you but I've had to slash too when my word count was way too high for the genre.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

It sounds like you are doing excellent work, making the story the best it can be. I love a good simile, metaphor, descriptive line, etc, but if they start to pull me too much out of the story or slow down the story then I'll usually put the book down.

mshatch said...

I find stepping away - even briefly - and coming back is a great way to 'see' more clearly and maybe be a little more objective about what needs to be done. It's tough sometimes tho.

Nick Wilford said...

My default setting seems to be over-elaborate language and I've worked really hard to tone it down. It can be hard, but you're right, we don't want anything getting in the way of the story. I would still keep all those offcuts, you never know if they could be refashioned in some way. Call me a writing hoarder!

Tyrean Martinson said...

I agree with Alex! A foot massage is in order. I have a tough time discerning the need to slash and burn and the need to edit carefully. Best wishes on all of your hard work!

Arlee Bird said...

As much as I love words, sometimes the words just get in the way. I think of somebody telling me a story that is so overly filled with detail and asides that I'm bursting to blurt out "Get to the point already!" Simplicity usually says it best--and more clearly.

Arlee Bird
Tossing It Out

Julie Flanders said...

I have the opposite problem - I end up needing to add a bunch when I am revising. I go so overboard trying not to be too descriptive that I end up with nothing.
You made me laugh saying you've become a slasher! Picturing you with a bloody knife dangling over your pages...


Rhonda Gilmour said...

I hear you, Liza. I'm an over-writer in first drafts, and always end up cutting whole plot threads and firing characters. That's an advantage of working on a series, though. A character who does get her turn onstage in this story may be featured in the next. Happy writing!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liza - you've picked a good topic by the way the comments are going - I'm sure we all happily exaggerate our stories when we're telling them - but you're obviously doing the right thing by cutting many out - good luck - cheers Hilary

Joanne said...

slash and burn, but I hope you've kept your drafts. Then when it's time for some poetry, pull out that "darling" and use it. Or in a blog post - you can show some before and after takes as a learning experience for other writers.
Sounds like you are making progress. Continued good luck

Loni Townsend said...

I'm not quite to the prose fixing point yet, but I've had to cut a bunch of info from my books lately, so I totally understand. :)

Misha Gericke said...

Yeah I know what you're saying. Distance from one's writing sure does open one's eyes to the glaring faults. :-/

Lela Markham said...

Sooo hard to kill our darlings.

Lynda R Young said...

I remember doing heaps of research on hand-to-hand fighting. I wanted this amazing scene, this tense fight, blah blah. When I wrote it, it was full of description and what I thought was tension. After I let it rest, I came back to it and ended up deleting the majority of it. I brought it down to its rawest. Quick and simple. And the scene was so much more powerful because of it.
Not always easy to do the slash, but our work is so much better for it.

Chrys Fey said...

When I edit for a client or myself, I often cut or highlight sentences to be cut that slow the narrative/story. It really does make a different.

Diane Burton said...

As I cut my darlings, I save them in a file I call left-overs. Have I ever gone back and used those darlings? Of course not. But I feel better knowing I didn't kill them completely. LOL Good luck with slashing and burning.

Mrs. Karch said...

Yep. That all rings true. Don't know where you are in your writing career, but I'm just getting started, and overwriting is a huge struggle for me. Putting some temporal distance between myself and the writing does help me see the extraneous stuff so that I can cut it, but I'm not a skilled slasher. Not yet. Have you found your ability to identify the "extra" stuff improving as time goes on? Have you read anything by other authors that you liked but recognizes as being overwritten?