When I completed my first novel, roughly ten years ago, I was one proud woman. Friends raved, so I went on to write a second book. The second came even faster than the first, and in less than six months, I had written close to one hundred and fifty thousand words. There was no stopping me. I was convinced my books were going to be bestsellers. Well, the last part was wishful thinking on my part, but I figured positive thoughts far outweighed negative ones – still do. That didn’t change the fact that one hundred and fifty thousand words was about fifty thousand more than I needed for a first novel.
Writing is a very personal thing. Hour upon hour is spent pining over the plot, characters, twists and resolution. The birthing process is long and arduous, and unlike a mother giving birth, the labor pains last for months and sometimes years. How on earth was I supposed to cut away one third of something so precious to me? To be honest with you, I didn’t – at least not with this story. Under the Thinking Tree (yes, that was the title I’d chosen) turned out to be an exercise in writing, but not one in cutting. I set it aside and used portions of it as a basis for Broken Vessels.
As I continued to write, I soon discovered that cutting the fat wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be. I know it’s torture for some, but through trial and error, and some great advice along the way, it hit me that if my writing isn’t moving the story forward, it’s holding it back. There’s nothing worse than picking up a book and groaning over excessive detail or information that bogs the story down with unimportant fluff. Things like that turn me into a skimmer, and if there’s one thing I don’t want it’s for people to find themselves skimming over portions of my stories. So, I highlight and cut with very little hesitation.
Now, I will admit that there are times when cutting does sting a little. If I feel the writing is really good and I can’t bring myself to hit the delete button, I’ll save the section for possible use in another book. For the most part, however, I end up hitting the delete button anyway. Tends to sting a little less when it’s not attached to the rest of the story.
If only cutting the fat from my diet was that easy. Sigh!