Monday, January 5, 2015

Cut! Slash! Chop!

Cut! Slash! Chop! It's one thing writers must do with no sympathy for the words that must be deleted.

Oh, how hard that is. When we write a first draft and then go back to revise and edit, the last thing we want to do is to get rid of our precious words. Those words are personal. We put those phrases and sentences together and we sure don't want to lose any of them. We tend to want to add more words rather than chop a few.

But wait--it's a necessary evil to cut wherever you can. If you can look objectively at your work, you are likely to find that you often repeat yourself. Redundancy is rife in first drafts. Part of the reason writers tend to repeat themselves is that they want to be very sure the reader 'gets it.' That's something to get over. Readers are far more with it than we sometimes think. If you give them some information once, they'll remember it. You needn't hit them over the head by repeating two, and even three times. 

Another place we can slash is our opening paragraph. I see dozens of submissions and critiques in my onlne writing group each week. Time and again, critiquers will suggest omitting an opening paragraph. Our English teachers of yesteryear taught us to include an introductory paragraph to let the reader know what is to come. I fear that is out of touch in today's world. We writers need to open with action. Open with a bang. Open with a surprise. Open with something that makes the reader want to continue. Hook 'em! 

We can also cut some of the flowery language writers, especially novice writers, tend to use. Stop using two and three adjectives with most of your nouns. One does very nicely and makes your point. Too many flowery descriptions becomes irritating to a reader. There are times they'd like to shout Get on with it!  

Long, drawn-out sections of dialogue are not necessary. Use dialogue. It's important. But use it wisely. Let your characters say only what is pertinent to moving the story from one point to another. Can the chatter; make each word a character says count. 

Writers have a tendency to over-inform the reader. They want to give a great deal of background material that probably has nothing to do with the story itself. Say what is important and no more. Giving too much information tends to divert the reader's attention. 

Cut where you can and you'll end up with a stronger story, essay or article. Time is the enemy in our world today. People still read but they want a short, clean read. No time for unnecessary words or paragraphs. It's a fact of life in this 21st century and writers had better go with the flow. 


  1. I learned this, not as an English major, but when I took an editing class in order to work for the student newspaper at Pittsburg State.

    1. Less is quite often the better way to go. Newspaper people learn how to cut very quickly. Thanks for your comment.