Sunday, August 10, 2008

Kill Your Children

One of the hardest parts of writing is editing.

I just spent about an hour working away on an old story, and I must say--it's nearly as exhausting as writing. What's more, now that I'm editing with the intent of sending away for possible publication the process has become more intense. Magazines don't have unlimited space, and most of the places I've found have strict word-limits.

I'm finding that paring down my stories is like killing my children. Sometimes it's easy (I found a large section that with one mighty slash was excised completely with no detriment done to the narrative), most times it's damn hard. My biggest problem is the whole "begin with a bang" theory. Most places seem to want stories that grab the reader by the balls from word one. For some reason, I quit doing this a few years ago--everything I have seems to deliberately start slow. Thus, I am having to re-write my introductory paragraph/page(s). Fee-fi, ho-hum...a writer's job is never done.

Editing is a bitch. Time for bed.


Murph said...

Starting slow seems to be en vogue of late, so I wouldn't sweat it too much. Also, it depends on how you start, not just starting with a bang. A slow start doesn't bother me so long as I can see that it is building toward something. Also, there is something to be said for establishing mood and building the world first before throwing the severed head on the table.

One trick to try as you edit is consolidation. One thing I have noticed, and published writers do this (I used to argue with one of them, no longer a friend), is that there will be endless characters in endless scenes all of which handle only one small part of the story.

In a scene, you want to get maximum effect. You want your scene to multi-task, to be layered, to serve many purposes in the story. If they aren't doing that, then it is time to think about picking some scenes and mashing them together.

Ask yourself if you can get rid of that one character who says one thing during scene five and give it to the protag, friend of the protag or the antaganist. Ask yourself if you really need a scene where the main function seems to be eating salads (even though a discussion may be in progress about self worth and parenting, forex).

But revisions and editing, yeah, I have never cared for it. Part of the deal though.

Northtown, Missouri

Jason said...

All solid advice Murph. Consolidation is really important when you have a limited word-count.

I'm trimming so much fat, I feel like a damn butcher. But as long as the essence remains, I don't feel (too) bad.

Most times I think the edits are an improvement. I've seen very few "director's cuts" that added very much crucial material. It's the same for writing, if it can go--it probably should.