I recently got an interesting question about the writing process. What’s, this? A real writing post?!!? Nothing about dolls?!?! I know. Bear with me.
When I posted an update to Facebook that I was still cutting my manuscript, someone asked, why so much cutting? She wondered if maybe I didn’t like what I’d written.
Oh, I love what I’ve written. It’s all precious little snowflakes made of gold to me. And I will keep on cutting. I’ve compared writing to lots of things: puzzles, fruit, rivers, doll adventures. I think this time I’ll go with clay…or meat. You picture whichever you like.
The first draft is like acquiring my meat clay. It’s brand new, just unwrapped and it has lots and lots of problems. It doesn’t look like anything, and it’s raw. It’s just the materials I have to work with. My second draft is about creating a basic shape and making sure character arcs and plot points are flowing smoothly. I guess this is molding the clay into a rough shape of what you want it to be, or alternatively, doing something to meat that conveys the same image. (Can you tell that I don’t sculpt or grill?)
My third round of edits, ah, that’s where the detail work begins. One of my writing group partners called me the Chainsaw of Loving Kindness, and that still makes me laugh. Though I don’t recommend using a chainsaw on clay or your dinner. I think the nickname is apt because if anything is unnecessary to the plot or to character development, it’s cut. Doesn’t matter if I think it’s the cutest scene on creation, it’s cut. Repetitious words are cut. A hefty amount of dialogue tags are cut. Lengthy conversations are cut down, and similar conversations are cut altogether. Adverbs are cut down as are many participles and their phrases.
Now my clay really likes look a horsey, and my meat has no more fat, and is probably cooking at this point. Part of the art of cutting is trying to hit your word count. More often, it’s about trimming and tightening, making every word work, or trying to. I’m looking to shave 6K or so off my current manuscript, and so far, it’s going well. On my first two drafts, I leave a lot of extras to remind myself what’s going on as I’m writing, where a reader wouldn’t have any trouble keeping track. Where I am right now, many “wounded hands” are getting cut. Yeah, that sounds like the image to end on.
If you write, do you often have to cut like the wind or add words to make your manuscript better? And if you read, do you often find yourself thinking that whole scenes could be cut? Do you use clay or meat in your work?