I haven’t been reading any ‘how-to’ articles lately, but usually I try to refresh myself on the aspect of writing I plan to tackle. I’m now in the second round of edits on Hardware, a Romantic Suspense novel. The editor is good – read that as brutal - and he’s taken out more stuff this time. I gotta admit that the excised material
can should go, but it’s the sentiment attached to those phrases and sentences that are giving me a bit of a niggle. In other words, it’s crunch time and all the chaff has gotta go – whether I like it or not.
Writers know how easy it is to get stuck on bits of data we feel our stories can’t live without. However, I know that taking out the sentences and paragraphs I feel are wonderfully written often lightens the prose, which makes for a better read.
Apart from nixing crutch words and unnecessary tidbits, I force myself to look at each scene as a single unit. I check for the following things:-
- Does it have a snappy opening line? One that will force the reader to carry on?
- Does the middle live up to the beginning? Or does the scene start to drag?
- Is any new information revealed by the end of the scene?
- Do my characters and plot develop?
- And at the end, do I leave on a note that will carry the reader forward to the next chapter?
The checklist above can’t be applied while editing for grammar nits. It’s too important to lump with anything else, which is why I edit each chapter several times.
The last step for me these days is to test the validity of each scene. Sometimes I get all the excess material out and at other times, yet another round of trimming is required. That’s when lean, fluent scenes emerge, and I’m satisfied enough to move forward. I kinda get all hoppity-skippity-do like the woman below.
What about you? Have you taught yourself not to get bogged down by those clever words/phrases and do you do anything differently in terms of deciding what to cut and/or keep.