Writing Tip #24

Don’t be afraid to cut. A lot. New York Times bestselling romance author Eloisa James recently lamented at a seminar I attended that, after some thought, she was going to have to get rid of the first 150 pages of the new novel she was writing.

Just like that. 150 pages. Gone.

Yep. It happens. To all of us. Sometimes it’s only after we’re into a story that we realize we’ve taken a wrong turn or plot elements aren’t connecting or a character who we’ve worked so hard to create just doesn’t fit in the particular novel we’re crafting. Don’t let a fear of cutting make you keep unsuccessful (or uninteresting) aspects of your story just because you don’t want to start over, or you’re lazy, or you’ve committed to writing 1,000 words a day and this will totally screw up your daily word count.

Trying to make something work rarely works. The writing’s gotta feel right. And if it doesn’t, it’s gotta go. Keep in mind, though, that I rarely delete anything entirely. I just create a separate document, place the chapters or sections in question there and put it aside for safe keeping, just in case I change my mind or want to use it later for a different manuscript.

Cutting is part of writing. And better you cut the first 150 pages than keep going and find your novel doesn’t work. The last thing you want is to have to scrap the entire thing altogether.


4 thoughts on “Writing Tip #24

  1. This post reminded me of the word “concision”, related to incision.

    Incision has the “In” meaning “into”.

    Concision has “Con” meaning “with”.

    And, since the “cision” part means “cut”, we might say that we need to perform incisions on our writing so the writing displays concision: “Terseness and economy in writing and speaking achieved by expressing a great deal in just a few words”.

  2. I like the part where you say you create a separate document for future use. That’s what I do. I have an archive for deleted scenes. I may only come back and use bits and pieces but I feel I work too hard to just discard all that work. Excellent post!

  3. Terrific post, Dina! Great advice! It’s a killer to have to cut big chunks of work, but I agree–it’s got to feel right. Often it takes 100 or 150 pages to set the story, get a feel for character, setting, plot, etc. Like you, I never delete anything. Even when I can’t use an entire chunk, I almost always end up with something usable–a paragraph, a page, a scene–and often find myself going back for it later.

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