Tuesday, August 11, 2015

You Should Take All of This Stuff Out of Your Manuscript (Even if it hurts)

You know how it is.
Your manuscript is done, and you've begun the editing process. So naturally, you search a few different articles about editing, only to find--GASP. 
"Kill Your Darlings," and "Destroy What You Love" and "Cut Out Words" and other horrible articles spill across your screen, all demanding one thing: delete some of the precious words you've written.
...What? Delete them? Permanently? NEVER!
Hey, that's what I said at first, too. But as I grew with my writing and continued to learn how to edit properly, my eyes were opened. It took a while, but I finally accepted the inevitable:
You have to destroy your book.
Now, you may be asking yourself, "What the heck does that mean?" Well, for starters, I don't literally mean destroy your book. That would just be unproductive. No, I mean read through your manuscript and delete filler words, paragraphs, and maybe even whole chapters that aren't necessary for the story.

1. Very, really, even, etc. These, my dear friends, are examples of filler words that you should definitely take out of your sentences. Words like these merely slow things down and add unnecessary words rather than make your story better. Although you may have to do a little bit of rewriting or rearranging, it's best to just scratch these words out of your story.
2. Loooong internal dialogue. As I edited my first book, it took me a few rounds before I realized just how many long passages of internal dialogue I had written. I had originally thought that all of these deep, inward thoughts of my main character were necessary and interesting, but I was wrong. Instead, they added nothing to the story and repeated things that the reader already knew, making my main character a tad bit annoying. It hurt, but I deleted quite a few big chunks. Thankfully, I can say that my chapters are a lot better now. Search through your manuscript for any long internal dialogue, and really analyze it and see if it's necessary. If it's not, delete it!
3. Unnecessary description. Unless it's absolutely key to a scene, there's no reason for you to take four paragraphs to describe your character's surroundings in every chapter. Doing so is repetitive and boring, and takes away from the story. It's also unnecessary for you to consistently describe your character's appearance, unless (like I said before) it's vital to the scene. If you're just describing a character because you feel the reader needs to know how cute her new high heels are, delete that chunk of description.
4. Small talk. I've mentioned this before in other posts, but I'm going to say it again because I think it's just that important. When pruning your dialogue, cut out small talk between characters. Although small talk is a realistic part of every day conversation, it is not necessary in a book and just slows everything down. If you find small talk and chit-chat in your dialogue, delete it!
5. Extra adjectives. When describing an object, try to use one adjective rather than multiple. Having too many adjectives usually results in a mouthful of a sentence. For example, which sounds better?
"The beautiful, dazzling ocean sparkled in the light of the bright, yellow sun."
or
"The dazzling ocean sparkled in the light of the sun."
The second sentence has the same meaning as the first, but gets the point across quickly and concisely. Although it's definitely not wrong to use more than one adjective, sometimes just one is enough.
6. Unnecessary scenes. This is by far the hardest thing for me, but it's necessary. Sometimes in a story, there are scenes that, when you first write them, seem fantastic. But then as the story develops and changes, that scene may become irrelevant or unnecessary. In that case, it's time to delete it--even if it has good chunks of writing in it. Some of the scenes I've removed from my story had some lines and sentences that I was really proud of, but I knew it was best to take the scene out. Despite how much it hurt, removing unnecessary scenes proved to be a good choice in the end.

Although it can be hard to hit that delete key, you might be surprised at how much better your manuscript can be without all of this stuff dragging it down. Your sentences will be smoother, your writing will sound better, and your story in general will flow nicely. Don't be scared! Just take a breath, search your story, and hit delete. It's just that easy, and just that hard.

"Get rid of your sins, and leave all iniquity behind you." Job 11:14

3 comments:

  1. Love this. It's so hard to do, but it needs to be done!! I struggle with this personally though as I am an 'underwriter' vs and 'overwriter' - often my drafts are missing chunks and I KNOW they're missing, and need to be added in. Ah well, two steps forward one step back is how it is writing sometimes :P

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    1. Thanks, Stefanie! And agh, I totally understand that! Thanks for commenting :)

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  2. My philosophy professor advised taking ALL the adjectives and adverbs out (not kidding, ALL) and then re-inserting only the ones needed for clarification. He was talking about essay-writing, so novels need a little more oomph in my opinion...but it does give you a completely butchered manuscript to laugh at before you go about fixing it! :)

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