Monday, November 22, 2010

Editing The Guts Out of the Story

Did you ever look at something you wrote a long time ago and think,  "Wow, that was really passionate and moving and... I killed it."

That happened to me today.  This morning I grabbed my original notebook for my novel, the one with the first handwritten scenes and the precious syllables of my language, to write in if I had some free time today.  I ended up reading one of the pivotal scenes in the heroine's story.  One of those so-called "candy scenes" that are a pleasure to write because they are so compelling, and which drive the rest of the plot.

It made me realize how much I've lost in the editing process through the desire to be "tight" and "clean."  I just edited the same scene last week for the third or fourth time. I wasn't satisfied with it, but I just moved on.  Because that's what I'm doing now: Moving on.  But now I'm thinking, "Hoooold it!  What happened here?"

Did you ever have one of those moments?  Have you gone back and resurrected the dead?


  1. Yes, and yes.

    In fact, I am determined to go back to the draft I had of my first ms from the beginning of the year and read it from scratch after NaNo is over and my eyes recover. That one was under consideration for awhile by an agent and after it was finally rejected I went back and started gutting it and I'm

    Even though I've decided I'm not going to query it again, I want to go back, I want to decide once and for all what stays and what goes so I can finally call it done, just for the sake of my (little remaining) sanity.

    Good luck breathing life back into some of your darlings...sometimes, I think they're there for a reason, and we should keep them.


  2. I think "tight" and "clean" has been overrated and overused honestly. Although they have their place certainly, we lose sight of the fact that lushness and richness in language is one factor that bring people to books. Again, Im not saying always be verbose but I think there's a danger of over-editing to the point that one loses one's voice and vision.

  3. Great subject for the post. I hope the beautiful qualities of layered language and imagery is not lost from literature. Otherwise storytelling becomes a very thin line.

  4. I hate that. I do it too. I've resurrected the dead on several occasions and I've found I always like what I threw away better than what I've tweaked so I put it back in in some way. I hate editing. It takes away the purple but it also takes away some great writing.

  5. I feel like I'm doing this now. Cut and trim. I've looked back at my original, and realized I should've kept what I had. That's revising, I guess.

  6. i think that's one of the reasons i like indie publishing. i'll still try to write the best story i can and get my crit partners to help me clean it up, but i can keep what i want and not lose those scenes that i really love. (i'm still trying to figure out how to include those darlings i posted for my blogfest.)

    hope you can get the life back in your story.

  7. Someone reading an excerpt of mine once said, by way of criticism, "It seems like you are in love with the words."

    Isn't that what we are supposed to be??? Shouldn't writers love the words?

  8. Yes, thank you for this post! :)
    These wonderful scenes we write that are purely inspired are often just as wonderful to the reader.

    This is a great reason to save the old versions of scenes (though it can clutter your computer and/or house) because you may want to go back.

  9. I came over here from Michelle Gregory's blog.

    I can relate to the "editing the life from the story." I've sometimes gone back to the original to get some of the life back into what the story's become. I like the indie route of publishing, too, as Michelle mentions above. We need the objective critique, but we don't have to omit something someone doesn't like if we think it really does have significant emotional impact. I think we can learn to see what we should put in or take out. I like the control that the indie publishing route provides for the author.
    Ann Best, A Long Journey Home

  10. Thank you so much for coming by, Anne!

  11. I think even Indie authors feel pressure from their peers, though, to write a certain way. Or don't you think so?


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