Are you guilty of over writing? In this post, we ask ‘Should you cut it or keep it?’ with these five quick tips for over writers.
Knowing which phrases to keep and which phrases to cut while rewriting is a monstrous task that often leaves a writer feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. But deciding what to keep and what to cut isn’t hard when you ask the right questions.
Every word you have in your manuscript must perform a function. It must have a reason for being there. When we rewrite we have to evaluate the function of every word or phrase. Some words or phrases only perform one function. Those are usually the words or phrases you can cut.
TIP: Remember this is second draft stuff. Don’t cut and delete while you are exploring your first draft.
Cut It Or Keep It – 5 Quick Tips For Over Writers
When In Doubt, Ask Yourself:
1. What Is The Purpose Of The Description?
There should be a reason for a description. The way characters describe the people, events and places around them tells us a lot about who they are, but if you have three different events or descriptions showing the reader how kind or how violent or how sweet your character is you may be able to cut it back to one or two.
2. Is It Necessary At This Particular Point In The Story?
When and why you use a specific description will help or hinder the reader. When you need to increase pace don’t stop to describe, but when you are orientating the reader or your character is meeting another character for the first time they may share a new insight, but we don’t need know that the character ran exactly 12 feet down the passage before turning left and then left again while the baddies were chasing him. Sometimes we need to move the more detailed descriptions to the front of the book to keep up the pace that we need for the climax.
3. Does It Show Or Reveal Something New About The Plot, The Place Or The Character?
In other words, does your description advance the plot or do you describe the same character in the same way every time they walk on to the page? Do you wax lyrical about the high-tech, modern building every time the character walks through the biometric, retina-scanning door? Only describe the same thing, place, or character twice if something has changed or has failed to changed. We don’t need to repeat the same information.
4. Does It Convey/Demonstrate Or Add To The Theme?
Can you use your descriptions to illustrate your theme? Descriptions and explanations in the narrative are imperative for layering your theme – for sneaking it in without preaching, but make sure it does more than just that. Can you show your theme? Make those descriptions work hard.
5. Is It Aesthetically Pleasing?
Sometimes a beautiful line is just a beautiful line and then you are allowed to say ‘screw it, I’m keeping it’, but just don’t do that for every description. And perhaps consider strengthening a beautiful description with a secondary function.
The Last Word
This is a process. Don’t try to cut and change everything all at once. Evaluate your description and make sure it has more than one function. Remember, when in doubt, leave it out or refer to point number five.
I hope these quick tips for over writers help you with your rewriting.
If you want an appraisal on your writing, please click here: Appraisals
by Mia Botha
Buy Mia’s book on how to write short stories: Write the crap out of it and other short story writing advice
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