Cut the “crap”.

A comment from Jayde on Wednesday’s post got me thinking.

It’s amazing how there’s an emphasis on the need to cut, when in fact many publishers will ask for more description, more thoughts, more colourful language. While craft books are fantastic in that they teach a writer the basics of good and bad writing, in the end establishing a personal voice that engages a reader and truly works is what will get a book published.

And yes, I agree. A story needs fleshed out scenes, colorful language, specific details. When people who know what they are talking about, advise cutting 10% of your manuscript – they mean to cut the crap. (Which in my first first draft meant basically the whole thing.)

And then replace it with specific details, great showing, well-placed telling…etc.

So often times, it’s not just cut, cut, cut.

It’s cut, cut, cut, and then replace with better writing that’s not crap. And honestly that kind of writing doesn’t happen over night. It doesn’t come after just reading every how to book ever written. It comes with practice.

So write, write, write.  Read, read, read (and hopefully some excellent writing will seep into your subconscious).

And when you realize you’ve learned a lot, you can lean back and say, “Aah, now I understand cut, cut, cut.” You’ll see frivolous dialogue, sentences that could be tightened, characters that could be combined.

Have patience. You’ll get there.

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14 Responses to Cut the “crap”.

  1. Heather Kelly April 30, 2010 at 11:26 am #

    I definitely agree with this post! It’s hard to get the novel down to only the best writing. Thanks for making it seem very straightforward!

  2. Laura Marcella April 30, 2010 at 1:26 pm #

    Great point! You’re absolutely right. So much emphasis is placed on cutting the bad writing. But we also need to rewrite those bad parts into something worth reading! Thanks for this enlightening post.

  3. Stina Lindenblatt April 30, 2010 at 1:53 pm #

    Great post! You described what I’m doing right now. I’ve cut the crap, now I’m building the setting and description, two things that were sadly lacking. I mean, really, it’s not a good thing when it takes six paragraphs before you figure out where the mc is standing. Oops!

  4. Laurel April 30, 2010 at 2:16 pm #

    This hits right where I am today. Thanks for the encouragement. 🙂

  5. Anna April 30, 2010 at 2:42 pm #

    Yes indeed! If you can’t see the crap in your own writing, it can be impossible to know what to cut and replace. That’s where time, practice, and lots of reading come in. Great post!

  6. Catherine A. Winn April 30, 2010 at 4:12 pm #

    It sounds so easy but it’s so hard! Good post and oh, how true.

  7. Laura April 30, 2010 at 4:18 pm #

    Thanks everyone for commenting. I’ve been out all morning. Yeah, sometimes I’m not at my computer. It is hard to recognize crap and sometimes that only comes with time and with setting your work aside for a time. And that’s why crit partners can be helpful! I’m off to visit your blogs before I #amwriting.

  8. Jewel Allen April 30, 2010 at 4:52 pm #

    I am still learning what to cut and what not to cut. I have a novel which my writer’s group loved for the language. When I rewrote it to make it more YA, more fast-paced, they complained. And yet I thought I was improving on it. Sigh.

    Thanks for your parting words. I need to be patient, I know :-).

  9. Creepy Query Girl April 30, 2010 at 6:21 pm #

    Very true. especially with repeated dialogue tags. ‘He raised an eyebrow.’ ‘His eyebrows raised’ ‘He cocked a brow’ ‘His brows rose’ lol- you get the picture. Sometimes I wish I could shave everyone’s eyebrows off in my books so I could stop talking about them….

  10. Laura April 30, 2010 at 6:30 pm #

    Jewel – I’m still learning to on what to cut and what not to cut. It’s not as easy as it seems.

    CQG – That’s hilarious. We all have our overused phrase or body language. 🙂

  11. angela April 30, 2010 at 9:47 pm #

    Oi, this is so true, isn’t it? I’m a cutter or adder depending on the stage of editing. It’s like binge dieting sometimes! Cut, add, cut, add.

    But it always ends on a cut. And let me tell you, on that final pass where you examine each word, it is amazing how many little filler words don’t need to be hanging around. 🙂

  12. Laura April 30, 2010 at 10:50 pm #

    It’s amazing how much you can see to cut AFTER you’ve sent a sample off to an agent. 🙂

  13. Karen Lange April 30, 2010 at 11:17 pm #

    This is such a good point. Have a great weekend:)

  14. Jen May 26, 2010 at 12:13 pm #

    Creepy Query Girl had a post today and shared your link, which I’m very thankful for because this post of cutting was crucial since I’m just now in the revisions part and already struggling with the advice I was given!!!

    They told me to cut, cut, cut but after looking deeper into my MS I realized I needed re-structure and move things around first. I created an Outline on how I would like the story to go once that was complete I was able to order it accordingly (which I’m still working on) after the fact I will cut, but not before. I want to make sure it’s time. I will say I know I need to cut but I think you should be aware of what you’re cutting.

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