On Wednesday, it was our privilege to interview Andy Meisenheimer and Renni Browne of The Editorial Department (TED) - publishing's oldest full-service freelance editorial firm. I urge you to check out their services when you feel your manuscript is ready, and also to buy Renni's book (written with Dave King), Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. This is the book I hear recommended most often at writers conferences by agents and editors. As you read, exercises and checklists help you apply what you have learned. Have plenty of highlighters on hand. My copy is a rainbow of color!
Love it or hate it, rewriting is a necessary evil. So, where do we start? For lack of a better plan, we often start at the beginning of a manuscript, tweaking and trimming, cleaning up grammar and punctuation as we go. But what happens if the entire chapter needs to be deleted? We have just invested more time and energy, polishing our words to a glow and fallen more deeply in love with them. What's the answer?
Another fine book on revision is Getting the Words Right by Theodore A. Rees Cheney. In it, he states:
"Seventy-five percent of all revision is elimination of words already written; the remaining twenty-five percent is improving the words that remain."
His 'formula' for getting the words right can be simply stated as 'reduce, rearrange, reword.' He begins by reducing chapters, sections and paragraphs, then progresses from sentences to words and then to shorter words. The words that are left are the ones we tweak and polish because they are the 25% that remain. It's a simple place to start.
Most of us find it painful to cut chapters or large sections of our writing. The words represent characters or scenes we have labored over lovingly and have brought us joy. Perhaps for their creation we have sacrificed time away from other activities (or family) or hours of sleep. Making a file for these cuttings is not only comforting, but beneficial. We never know what important information might be woven back into the story.
The majority of the time, I find that I never miss the sections I have to cut. I save them in a file and never revisit them. What has been your experience? Do you find that it gets easier the more you trust your instincts? We would love to hear from you.