Monday, August 24, 2015

We'll Just Trim A Little -- Maybe Your Ears and Nose and a Couple Fingers

     Some stories are too short.  Shortness has its own struggles, of which I am well aware.  But we'll save that for another post, because, right now, I am going through the agonies of a story that is too long.

      How do we fit a big story into a smaller package?

     First we read through to see if there are any big scenes that can be cut.  But we're rather attached to everything so we move on.

     Then we go through, trimming unnecessary words.  For example, I changed "found out" to "discovered."  Yay, that's one word less!  This is like cutting your fingernails...and maybe all your hair.

     This can trim your word count as well as make your narrative more streamlined.  Unfortunately, for the sake of our example, it doesn't take off enough words this time.

     Now comes the hard part.  Which fingers do you suppose you need the least?  And if we cut off your ears...and maybe the tip of your nose...everything is still mostly functional, right?  We are just cutting beauty -- the trickling brooks and stunning sunsets -- and small supportative scenes.  It will be okay, right?

      Moment later, we stand back and view our mutilated story, only to we find that we were much too conservative with our scissors.  There remains 500 words too many.

     It's time to chop off an arm or leg.  We'll still be able to eat and breath.  Our hearts will go on beating.  Who needs two arms anyway?

     Is is worth it?

     Some other day, I will write an inspiring post about how much better a story is after you edit away the extraneous parts.  But today, I merely sob and use self-destructive analogies because I really don't want to lose any of my beautiful story.


(This post was written on 8/20/15.  Hopefully by the time this is published, four days from now, the author will be editing like a good girl.  However, you are still welcome to leave your condolences and pep talks in the comments below.  Also, please do not follow the steps outlined in this post as this is [obviously] NOT the way to edit your story.)


  1. I've been discovering this too while I edit my newest book. I am finding things I can cut out while still keeping the story intact.

  2. I feel your pain! Sometimes, I love editing, as it feels like trimming the split ends from my good and healthy and freeing. And sometimes there are those beautiful - but unnecessary - bits that are so hard to chop out. One thing that has helped me is to create a document where I save all the pretty verbiage that doesn't quite make the cut. Then it doesn't feel like I'm just losing all of my hard work. I tell myself that I can always go back later and use it for something else. I probably never will, but the thought's comforting and makes the chopping less painful.

    I hope that you've worked out your woes by now!

  3. Thank you! It's coming along, I think. I found a couple scenes that I think I can cut. But I need to go back through and make sure you can't tell there's a hole.

  4. I hate when I have to do this, it is one of the hardest things, especially when you fall in love with a specific paragraph or word and you have to cut it.