Thursday, August 26, 2010



Hello, and welcome to Tabby’s Nocturnal Nights. My name is Brenda, and today I would like to talk about cutting. LOL, no, not hair cutting or cutting pictures out of a magazine, but cutting unnecessary words and paragraphs from you manuscript.

            The first thing I would like you to do is go through your MS and mark all material that maybe unnecessary. To help you start, first clarify what the main plot is of your story. Look through each chapter and read each paragraph with a critical eye, asking yourself if it had to be cut, would anything essential be lost? If the answer is yes, then maybe each paragraph could be tightened. Words cut.

            Another great place where one may find words and sentences to cut is the beginning to every chapter. The opening is most likely longer winded than need be. Can you get to the heart of the chapter faster? Are there redundant words that can be hacked out to tighten your prose? Ask yourself these questions. You will be surprised at how many places you find in your MS that can be slashed or tightened.

            Okay, now I would like you to pick up your red pen and go back through your MS again and hunt for redundant information and words.

            When writing something you feel is important in your story, it’s only natural to try and drive the importance home to your reader by mentioning the info two, three, even four times. But please remember, your readers aren’t stupid. Chances are they got it the first time.

            Check each sentence, paragraph, and yes, even chapters for redundancy. Also check for small redundancies. Things like, shrugging shoulders, nodding his/her head, or blinking his/her eyes. Shrugging implies shoulders, nodding implies head, and blinking implies the eyes. Cut. Cut. CUT!

            These simple cuts will help clean up your writing and make your prose sparkle.

            Next place to look is your transitions. In an effort to make a transition flow, some writers add more than is needed. A simple—to the point—transition is usually best.

            Slash all extra verbiage. Look for hedge words and qualifiers. Examples: really, just, kind of, sort of, rather, very, and somehow.

            Watch your adverb use. Ask yourself if they are totally needed. Chances are they can be cut.

Watch your use of adjectives. Example: Her long, reddish-brown, curly hair hung down her back.

Pick only what is necessary: Her curly brown hair hung down her back.

            I took out long because it isn’t needed. The sentence showed her hair as being long by saying it hung down her back.

            A great way to learn how to make every word count and to learn how to cut what is not needed is to write short stories with a specific word count.

            Challenge yourself today. Write a story with a word count of 2000.


Ambrielle said...

This is awesome advice. Good tips about redundancies. Oh, and a good one...trusting your reader. Right on about the adjectives, too. If you teached a class, I'd be the first to sign up, ma'am. You make cutting sound so easy :)

Penelope said...

Great post Troll! I'll bet over half the THE AND BUT I see in drafts don't need to be there either.

I think two other words that should be added to the search are IN and FOR. Lately I've seen a lot of "he raised his hand in anger" or "she danced for happiness" - these are telling. Show me his fist was clenched, I'll know he's angry - show me her twirl around the room with a giant grin plastered to her face, I'll think she must be very happy.

I read a book the other day - a published one - with so many AS IF that I felt like throwing the book. It was on my netbook - so no go. As if this, as if that. Usually "it was as if" - everything was as if something. An occasional AS IF for comparison is great - but that many was either telling or seriously weak showing. Resist the urge to explain - make it clear with your character reactions.

Just - that's my personal fave overused word. I just have to use it. Just always. :) We just gotta be aware of the phrases we're fond of - because no matter how much we just love them, the reader just won't if we overuse them.

mikatemple said...

Just in the nick of time for me, Brenda. I have to shave 600 words from my MS to fit it into category and I'm having a tough time doing it. I'm going to go back over body language right now and see what the axe will cut. (I sharpened it last night going over Martha Ramirez's MS ) Thanks for the well-timed, excellent post. (Oh, I can cut well-timed!)

jcdeacons said...

I agree. If the word, scene, (even if it's cool), or chapter doesn't serve a purpose it should be cut!

brenda said...

Thanks for all your guy's comments. I'm still going through my MS, chopping words, and with each cut, it reads much better.
Sometimes I find it hard to cut out certain scenes simply because I like them, but I have had to cut out two chapters--ouch, but now that they are gone I don't miss them. One was a chapter about Lucifer--I kept it cause I just have a feeling it will come in handy in a later book, but I loooooved that chapter. It explained so much, but out it came.

Charli Mac said...

One thing I learned from my crit partners was my undeniable ability to say the same things twenty different ways. When editing your own work one great tip is to really look at your prepositional phrases. e.g., He pulled the knife from her side. FROM HER SIDE can probably be cut, somewhere before was probably action or dialogue letting us know it was there anyway. I cut over 10,000 words from my ms alone looking for those.

brenda said...

Hey, C. Yep, I learned to cut a ton of useless crap from my MS, and I'm still going through it tightening and cutting as i go. It's amazing how much unnecessary junk I had scattered throughout. On my last pass through I'm hoping to 2000 words--more if I can.