Friday, October 14, 2011

You Want To Be Edited? Get Ready For Some Heavy Advice...

Okay, so you want to be edited? All right, but don't say I didn't warn you... Because it's not pretty all the time.

Last week, I gave you some tips to avoid indulgences, find your voice, and to flesh out those relationships.

This week, I'm going to give you the ugly. You know, the parts where you cringe because you got caught trying to put a band-aid on a flesh wound that clearly needs stitches. And you left it so now it's all infected and there might be gangrene in there.

Don't even pretend like you don't know what I'm talking about.

Here's the best tip I have for you today: DELETE.

When your editor (or your CP, or whoever is now editing your stuff--sometimes just you!), points out something that is not working, delete it.

Don't try to make it work. Don't slap on another band-aid. Don't get caught up in your clever or your word count or the fact that you have to have that particular scene.

You don't.

You can write another scene to fill the hole. One that actually works.

Then you have to go into the MS and push out all the antibiotics to kill all the infestation that that one little scene created.

I know you've heard of this. The domino affect. Change something on page 52, everything after that has to be brought into consistency.

True fact. And one of the horrors of deleting and rewriting.

But trust me. Those of us who edit, delete. We delete a lot. We rewrite what doesn't work into something that does.

And, for me personally, I find that working with blank pages is the best way to remove the offending parts. Otherwise, I might not get it all. Because your goal as an author is to become the best storyteller you can, using only the best words to do that.

If you're afraid of deleting your words, you're just a writer. You want to become a master storyteller that readers feel comfortable spending hours with, because they know you can weave a story around them using only words.

In order to do/become that, you have to be willing to delete. Is it painful? Sure. That's what copy + paste are for.

Have you overcome your fear of the delete key? You should really get on that.

61 comments:

Natalie Aguirre said...

It took me a long time to realize I was being stubborn in not deleting. My last two revisions I had to accept that I needed to delete even if the scene worked. Because I had too many words and could accomplish what I want without the scene. So yes now I delete, but save the scene just in case.

Jemi Fraser said...

I got over my fear of delete by saving a new version of the draft every time I did a major delete or edit. I keep the others 'just in case'. I've never gone back to them, but I feel better knowing they're there. One day, it'll be a massive delete-fest! :)

REINHARDT! said...

Elana, this is such an important post. I once had a writing teacher who said that crafting good stories was easy--just take out the bad parts. Most of the time, when a scene is problematic, it is because it doesn't really do anything to advance character or plot. You can often delete the entire scene to find that the characters can go from scene A to scene C without needing the offending scene B.

Alice said...

good advice. Hard to do. Sometimes I delete too much stuff and want or need it back later so I have an extras fileI put my deleted parts in. That way it's not so hard to get rid of them.

Kristine Asselin said...

Yes, Elana! Good advice--I just deleted some scenes that have existed for a very long time. Less painful than I thought. :)

Leigh Ann said...

Awesome, awesome post.

I still have about 25K of deleted words from my first MS - and that's just after me and my CPs got done with it. I love all the scenes dearly, and I still visit them from time to time, but they didn't belong in that book.

And? I'm sure an agent and/or editor would find even more to cut. If that ever happens, it's okay. I have practice. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've never had to delete a big chunk, just very small sections. Usually I just back up to the last point that works and try again. And if I'm told something doesn't work, I have no problem changing it.

Kamille Elahi said...

I don't tend to delete. I plan so much before, I end up being able to write without many bumps. if I do delete something, it's a bit of dialogue or something and even then, I try to plan what my characters say.

I have re-written bits that don't work as well as they should and it takes time but usually, is worth it. I once re-wrote a chapter more than 6 times and it's one of the best I've ever written.

But I don't have an editor so maybe I'm just being biased.

Laura Pauling said...

This is definitely the best way to edit! I get such a rush when I delete a scene or a chapter and it usually it does turn out better!

Anita Saxena said...

Most of my editing is more so deleting and rewriting then actually editing what I have. But sometimes I worry if I'm too delete happy. LOL. Great post.

Christine Fonseca said...

HA! You know me....I LOVE to delete.

thegreatpbjbattle said...

I recently deleted 25,000 words from a project. It was so hard to do, but now they're gone, I barely miss them.

WritingNut said...

Oh yes.. I have a huge fear of deleting things.. Thanks to many traumatic experiences ;).. But now I do the same thing as Jemi - I delete but save the original draft first.

Have a great weekend Elana!

Emily White said...

I can honestly say I have no fear of the delete key anymore. In fact, in some cases, it's now become my friend. :)

Great post! And so true.

Rain Laaman said...

Yikes.
Once I envision the story a certain way, it's hard to step outside the narrative and show the story who's boss. Thanks! I'll practice deleting.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

I'm over it. I'm able to delete fairly easily...but I confess, if I really love what I'm deleting from one story, I'll save it in another file. Who knows, maybe the concept, thought behind it could be used for a different character or another setting.
Baby steps, right?
~ Wendy

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm very good at deleting. Word. Sentence. Paragraph. Scene. Chapter. Nothing is safe from the delete button. And that includes anything I slaved hours over. ;)

But like others, I do save individual drafts, plus I have a "parking lot" in case I want to use the whatever (or portions of it) somewhere else in the book (or not).

April Howlett said...

Great post but, oh man,sometimes think I like deleting too much! I deleted an entire character out of my book (about a 1/4 of the MS) Deleting isn't so bad, it's writing in all those extra scenes that's hard :)

April Howlett said...

Great post but, oh man,sometimes think I like deleting too much! I deleted an entire character out of my book (about a 1/4 of the MS) Deleting isn't so bad, it's writing in all those extra scenes that's hard :)

April Howlett said...

Great post but, oh man,sometimes think I like deleting too much! I deleted an entire character out of my book (about a 1/4 of the MS) Deleting isn't so bad, it's writing in all those extra scenes that's hard :)

April Howlett said...

Great post but, oh man,sometimes think I like deleting too much! I deleted an entire character out of my book (about a 1/4 of the MS) Deleting isn't so bad, it's writing in all those extra scenes that's hard :)

April Howlett said...

Great post but, oh man,sometimes think I like deleting too much! I deleted an entire character out of my book (about a 1/4 of the MS) Deleting isn't so bad, it's writing in all those extra scenes that's hard :)

April Howlett said...

Great post but, oh man,sometimes think I like deleting too much! I deleted an entire character out of my book (about a 1/4 of the MS) Deleting isn't so bad, it's writing in all those extra scenes that's hard :)

April Howlett said...

Great post but, oh man,sometimes think I like deleting too much! I deleted an entire character out of my book (about a 1/4 of the MS) Deleting isn't so bad, it's writing in all those extra scenes that's hard :)

Abby Annis said...

The delete key and I are pretty close. Not in the friend sense, but in the keep your enemies close sense. ;) My cut words file for my WIP is less than 5000 words shorter than my current draft. So much easier to fix something that isn't working if you start with a blank page. Great post!

Carrie said...

Yes. I got advice to delete something from a manuscript critique at my regional SCBWI conference last year. The part of the story was my darling but had also become my writing group's darling too. I finally deleted it and it made a huge difference.

Taffy said...

*sigh* *throws band-aids back in box*
Ok. Not that dramatic. My critique group makes me delete stuff All. The. Time. And I trust them so I do it. I try and slip a band-aid or two in my story but they are quick to painfully rip it off and force me to take care of the ugly wound.
It is hard though when I think I have a great sentence or paragraph or character.

Karen Akins said...

Great advice. I actually go through my ms and highlight offending parts in red. And then I delete as I go.

Last rewrite, pretty much the entire thing was in red. lol

Melissa Hurst said...

I've learned to love the delete key. Took a while to get there, but it always makes my writing so much better. And just to make myself feel better about deleting, I copy and paste the "bad" stuff in another Word document.

Mel Fowler said...

I do delete because I know it will better my book... But, I think that I'm a hoarder of the deletion.

I save everything, well not everything. I save the good stuff. Sometimes I hope that it will fit somewhere else, other times, it just goes.

Thanks for you tips, it's one I needed to hear today.

Michelle McLean said...

I've actually gotten really good at deleting. I'm kind of brutal about it. I cut two whole chapters yesterday that I really like but they don't help my new plot AT ALL so...yeah, they had to go *mwhahahaha*

I do save my deletions in a Cut Material file, just in case I can recycle some of it (and it makes it easier to delete when I know it's just removed, not gone forever) :)

Carolyn Abiad said...

I have pages and pages of fluff floating in a cut file. I loved it once, so I hang on for a while, then I recycle the lot.

Krista said...

I save my drafts too. Not only with major deletes but with any major edits. I used to write just get thing on paper and thought I would and more on editting. But I found that I am better at taking some out -I than putting more on. Guess that is a good thing :)

Nicole Zoltack said...

I definitely have. When I changed my YA fantasy novel from YA to MG, the wc went from 80k to 66k. My deleted lines file is huge!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Truth!

It's funny that it can be so fulfilling to get that word count up so you can finish that first draft, yet it's equally fulfilling (or can be) when you can proudly say, "Wow, I just cut 6,000 words." Hopefully it was the words the reader would have skipped anyway.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I'm living in the delete world right now, and I admit it took me too long to get there. :-)

Patti said...

I so totally agree with you. I've gone from 100,000 which was my first draft down to 63,000. The delete button has become my best friend and a time saver.

Ron Smith said...

Such great advice. (And I love your surgery/medical analogies!)

Emily said...

I love this. It is so true. I also sew and if I've learned anything from sewing it's that sometimes you have to un-pick. And even though it SUCKS, if you don't do it, you'll notice the mistake every time you wear the skirt or sleep under the quilt.

Better to take the time to get it right.

Good advice.

Jessie Humphries said...

The delete button might as well be the booby trap button for me. I am definitely scared of that thing.

Heather said...

So true! I've found that if it's a particular part that I really hate deleting, it eases the pain if I put the deleted portion into a separate file and save it. Just knowing it still exists somewhere makes it easier.

★ Sara McClung ★ said...

It used to take me SO long to bite the bullet and hit delete. Then I discovered the use of a "cut file" so really, the words don't disappear permanently. They just go in my cut file. It's like a safety net :) THEN I'm free to rewrite a scene when I need to!

Christa said...

It's the tracking of the deleting that's a bear. I agree. You change something and then realize three read-throughs later that you still have something about that section you deleted later on. And then you need to redo that scene. And then things can get ugly.
Delete is essential, but sometimes so very hard.

Kelly Polark said...

Whoa. Truth hurts. I find it hard to delete, but yes, oh, so necessary.

Krispy said...

I flip flop between being terrified and being brave. Like if I've written something pretty decent, I will hesitate to delete, even if I know it isn't working.

On the other hand, if something is obviously not working and/or if I come back to a piece and it is full of what I see as suckage, I will select it all and hit delete without a second thought. It is, in fact, imperative that I erase all evidence of the suckage asap. Some might call this bravery, but I think Alz calls it crazy. :P

Peggy Eddleman said...

I don't know if I have completely overcome, but I am a whole heck of a lot closer to completely overcoming than I used to be!

Lindsay said...

Great post. I used to hate using the delete key, but I don't hesitate as much now. For some reason I never have this fear about killing off a character (if needed) though. Hmm. lol.

Suzie F. said...

I've mastered deleting words and sentences, but not big sections...yet. Of course, I'm still working on my first draft. Does it count if I save them in a folder?

Lisa_Gibson said...

Great advice! It doesn't come pain free but it is totally great advice.
Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

Melody said...

This is true. My beta recently commented that a particular scene felt paranormal. (It's not a paranormal book.) Just a comment. And while I tried and tried to fix the scene - fit a square peg in a round hole - I finally deleted it and re-wrote.

What I ended up with not only fixed the paranormal problems...it was better for the plot, the characters, and my sanity. :)

Angela Brown said...

Oddly, this piece of advice is painfully true. When something gets pointed out, maybe once, I may try to rework it. But usually, that same thing gets noticed again, not in a good way, and deleting it is the only way to make it right. Then, after eating a piece of chocolate, I go add a scene that gets the results I need.

Ahhh...wish I could just do that the first time around.

Anna Staniszewski said...

I fully embraced the delete button this week when I put aside an entire draft and started over. It sure wasn't easy, but you're right that sometimes it's what needs to happen.

Carol Riggs said...

Argh....nooo! I hate the delete button! But I've learned I can save my deleted stuff in another file and it makes me feel better. So I know where to find it if I ever need it again, to put parts back in. Do I ever put parts back in? No!

Stephen Tremp said...

I have a saying, "When in doubt, leave it out." I place tons of stuff in my JUNKYARD. Perhaps I can use them later. Just not this time. It gets easy after a while to slay those sacred cows and cut them out of the text entirely.

K.T. Hanna said...

I've never worked with a real editor before. But I do have pretty honest and direct crit partners. For me, if I sleep on what someone recommends, I usually (9 times out of 10) wake up and realize that no - they were completely right and I need to not be so sensitive, because they're doing it for my own good.

It's another reason I don't edit while I write - coming back to the piece a month or two later lets me look at it more objectively. I'm not a miracle writer and I know with 100% certainty that there are words, lines, sentences and even whole scenes my book really doesn't need.

But damned, ask me that five years ago? And I'd have bitten your head off haha. Sometimes we just need to grow up.

Great post!

J.R. Johansson said...

So true. I often find that rewriting a scene from scratch is the best way to go. Great post! :)

Mindy McGinnis said...

Yep - sometimes going back to scratch is the answer when what you have there isn't working, no matter how you contort it.

Liza said...

I cut and past my deletes into a new document. Then they are still there. I never use them...but that way I don't worry when I make them go away.

Sherrie Petersen said...

It's hard to get friendly with that delete key, but we're all (usually!) better off when we use it more. Sad, but true.

Jack LaBloom said...

Excellent advice.

jasmine bailey-barfuss said...

You rocketh. Good post. Very good post. So glad you didn't delete it (hee haw)!

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