Thursday, March 24, 2016

Does It Hurt To Cut Your Precious Words?

Fact or Fiction?

Two posters suggest cutting words. ...cut it to the bone Stephen King tells us. The anonymous author of the second quote tells us we are going to have to delete much of our first draft. He/she says that is when we know we are a writer but it might take us a long time to learn that.

Or maybe you don't agree with what these two quotes tell us. Maybe you are averse to cutting words or deleting entire sections of something to which you gave time and effort. You love some of the phrases or you are extremely proud of the way a certain section turned out. Cut? No way! 

I think this is when our ego and our talent as a writer get tangled. Those words we write are precious. We wouldn't take one of our children and toss them out, would we? That's how some writers feel about cutting parts of the story or deleting unnecessary words. They end up with wordy, dreary writing.

The cutting process will leave you with a much stronger piece of writing. If you edit with an objective eye--keyword here being objective--you can find areas that may be lovely prose but add nothing to the story itself. Or the essay or poem--whatever you are writing. 

In my first online writers' group, our moderator was a fine writer and a tough taskmaster. She was hard on all the members over one bad practice or another but she broke many of us of bad habits. One of those was being too wordy. She would cut huge chunks of a submission. That often hurt the writer but she always added a valid reason for what she suggested. Some people only needed unnecessary words cut but with others, it was entire paragraphs or even sections. I always read the critiques that this woman gave to other writers because I learned a great deal by doing so. As time went by, I could see that her suggestions on cutting were very beneficial. 

Here's a little problem with slashing our words. We're writers. We're word people. We love words and phrases and sentences. We don't want to get rid of any of it. Still, the second quote that suggests we are not real writers if we cannot make peace within as we slash, dice and slice some of what we've written. I know that, when I do this, I end up with a stronger piece of writing. 

Some of us tend to be redundant. We repeat the same idea with different words within the same paragraph. Part of the reason we tend to do that is to make sure the reader 'gets it.' Give your reader a little more credit for being able to 'get it' with only one try. When you edit your work, look for those areas where you have repeated yourself in some way and cut until you have made the point with one sentence. 

A fine poet in my online group frequently suggests cutting a lot out of a poem that has been subbed. That old less is more comes into play here. When she tells me to cut something, I pay close attention because I know she is a gifted poet and sees more than the average person. 

Don't be concerned with those many words you end up cutting. Put them away in your mental file box to use again some day. Those precious words aren't gone forever. 


  1. Thanks for this Nancy! Very helpful! Do you offer online blogging coaching?

    1. Never have. Actually, I've never been asked. What kind of help is it that you are looking for?