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Cutting the Fat

One of the hardships of editing is making painful cuts to a novel. These cuts can happen for multiple reasons. The scene in question might not move the story forward. A novel might be too long and need trimming. Lines might be too revealing. Parts of sections might need to be trimmed but not total. The list goes on and on.

I often find myself in the novel is too long category. The main thing to do is not attempt to cut too early. Let the elongated, bloated, scene stay snuggled in the manuscript. And wait. Different authors may be under different deadlines. Time, if it’s available, can be your friend.

When a story is new it’s much like an infant. A small, perfect little bundle that can do no wrong. And has no flaws. As the novel ages, however, it enters those pesky toddler years. Suddenly there are flaws. This is the time to cut. When the initial romance has died off. At this point a writer can look at their work with a critical eye, and the sting of the cut isn’t quite as harsh.

A common notion is to cut a scene that doesn’t move the story forward. I like to look at it from a different angle: if cut will the loss of this scene affect the outcome? I’ve had scenes that I have loved, loved, but once cut make absolutely no change on the overall story. That’s a scene that needs to be cut.

One major suggestion: before you cut a single word, create a new document. Save the original. You never know when you might need to reference a deleted section. It might become important later on. There is nothing worse than knowing you had something written that you need, but you can’t find.

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