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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Crossing it Out. IWSG February, 2019

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. IWSG is the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader.  Co-hosts this month:  Raimey Gallant, Natalie Aguirre, CV Grehan, and Michelle Wallace!
To read more, the list of participants can be found here.

Cutting bulk from my manuscripts has always caused me angst. To overcome my worry, I start a document for each project called  NovelNameOuttakes. This gives me a place to save all those useless scenes, in the off chance I might need to come back to them. May I tell you, I never do?

Recently, I tried something I’ve never done before. The last time my work was subject to critique from my writing group, I received consistent comments about cutting redundancy and moving entire blocks of writing between chapters. The feedback was spot on, but daunting. I’m a champion of making a real mess of things by cutting and pasting paragraphs and pages into the wrong place and confusing the dickens out of myself in the process. I was sure when I implemented the group’s suggestions, I was going to mess up the entire manuscript. Finally, I gathered up my courage, but instead of cutting anything, I highlighted text I wanted to get rid of and used the strike through key. Sounds simple, right?

It's not a key I'm in the habit of using, unless it helps me “strike” a humorous point here in Middle Passages.  Immediately, I experienced an “aha” moment. I was-scared-to-death nervous about cutting so much hard wrought language, but by lining through the superfluous stuff, I could keep it intact, while still seeing how improved the document would be without it. Bingo.

After that, I color coded. Blue text meant new writing to transition from the stricken part of the story to what comes next. Red highlighted text needed to be moved elsewhere and [bracketed markers told me where the red highlights were supposed to go.]

Using these techniques, I found could come back to the manuscript after an interruption and see not only where I had been, but also feel sure of what I should do next.  In the end, what I thought was going to be a confusing, agonizing, hair-pulling, scary, gosh-darn frustrating exercise turned into a few days of serious editing. When I felt confident I'd got it just right, I deleted everything I'd stricken, moved what I needed to, and returned a much-improved manuscript to a standard typeface that flowed the way my story is supposed to.

Man! Where has the strike through key been all my life?At the top of your screen, Dufus, where its always been. Even as I write this, I wonder if I'm the last one to the party. Are you reading this post thinking, "Well, duh?"

Do me a favor? Don't answer that.

What editing techniques do you use to keep yourself in control of your story?