Monday, December 12, 2011

Oh, For crying out loud...cut!

OH, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD . . . CUT!!!!
Hello, and welcome to my blog day. Butter tarts, sugar cookies, eggnog, coffee, and tea are set out on the side table. Help yourself. I didn't make the butter tarts, but they are yummy! I did make the sugar cookies though.

I'm being cheap today. This post is one I've written a few months back, but I thought it might help someone out.

So sit back, relax, and hopefully you don't feel the need to skim, hehehehehe.

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.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, and I hope to see you back here on the 12th of January.

28 comments:

Casea Major said...

Just like in real life - I don't have a problem getting rid of clutter. But in my writing sometimes I have a problem seeing the clutter.

Emma Paul said...

Hey Brenda so glad to see you back blogging at NN...Yep Clutter, Clutter, Cluttter....life if a writer...it's amazing how much we accumulate and don't even realize it! : )

ellaquinnauthor said...

Nice blog post. Where were you last week?

Sheri Fredricks said...

*Lays on the floor and kicks her feet* I don't wanna go through my MS any more!! I'm sick of editing. I hope gerunds and adverbs swallow me and spit me out in the enchanted land of wordiness!

Unfortunately, AS is calling my attention to the screen. Seems AS has reproduced to an alarming level since I last opened my manuscript. Great blog, Brendan. VERY timely. Hehehe

christine warner said...

Great reminders! I have the bad habit of over explaining...it's a hard habit to break!

Now excuse me, gotta go clean the sugar cookie crumbs from my shirt...geesh, what a mess I made but they were delish!

Jennifer Lowery (Kamptner) said...

Great post! It's hard for me to learn to trust my readers. I am guilty of repeating myself over and over because I don't trust the reader got it. Ugh. Good tips and advice, thanks for sharing :)

Daryl Devore said...

Great ideas. Like cutting a finger - cutting words hurts. But I have a huge list of over used words and I go through it for every chapter - that helps get rid of the clutter.

If the cookie plate is empty - don't look at me. (wipes crumbs off my shirt.)

Martha Ramirez said...

Love your strategy. And your cookies! :) Always the fun part, axing away words and clutter (or not lol). Great post:)

Brenda said...

Hey, Casea. I'm with you. I have a HARD time seeing the clutter in my writing, but I can find it when I'm critiquing others work.
Thanks so much for stopping by!

Brenda said...

Hey, Emma. Glad to see you!
It really is amazing how much clutter and unnecessary words we do accumulate in our writing.
Thanks for coming by!

Brenda said...

Hi, Ella. Glad you stopped by.
Last week was a real miserable week. The mother board and hard drive went in my old computer--lucky all my stuff was rescued.
Anyway, I had to buy a new computer--not that I could afford it, but I was going insane!!!

Brenda said...

Hey, Mike. Clutter reeks. And sometimes when we get rid of one over used word, another pops up. I have the bad habit of swapping one with another, then it's back to the drawing board, only with a new word.
As for as, well that little word can be a tricky one.
I'll pay extra attention to AS as I'm critting your chapters.
Thanks for stopping by!

Brenda said...

Howdy, Christine. LOL, I also have the bad habit of over explaining. Sometimes it gets so bad, it's almost like I'm bludgeoning the reader over the head with what I want to make sure they get.
I may as well just write: Hey, reader, did you get what I was trying to say? Did it make sense? Are ya sure you got it because I can explain it 20 more times to ya.
Thanks for making it by. I hope you enjoy your days off.

Brenda said...

Hi, Jennifer. I'm so happy you stopped by.
Yep, I'm the same--I have a hard time trusting myself and my ability so I keep repeating the same info.

Brenda said...

Hey there, Daryl.
LOL, you're right--sometimes cutting words and paragraphs does hurt as much as cutting a finger--sometimes even worse!
I have a list of words too. I find if I know what I'm looking for, it helps me see better.
Thank you for coming by!

Brenda said...

Hi, Mart. I'm so glad to see you!
LOL, I just replenished the cookie tray.
It took me a long time to make a strategy that works for me. I still can go through my MS and find places and words to tighten. I guess editing never ends.
Thanks for stopping by!

Allison Merritt said...

I'm ashamed to admit that I'm not very detail oriented and people are always telling me I need to add to the scenes because I leave out the sensory details.

I guess I just see what's going on in my head and forget to put it down on paper. I need to add, add, add. But I am redundant sometimes and I do need to cut that. So I can do a little cutting. Whew! That makes me feel better.

Jenna said...

I'm super guilty of almost everything you mentioned, Brenda. It's amazing how much can be cut and you don't miss it at all. I call the insistent repetition the "Eugene O'Neill-itis." The playwright said the same thing over and over and over--and just in case you didn't get that the first 4 times--again. My favorite word is "just" and I love -ly adverbs! My editors despair of me. LOL And I wish I could say I'm getting better, but apparently not.

Did you put something in the eggnog? I don't usually ramble on like this. *hic*

Tabitha Blake said...

It kills me to cut anything from my ms. But you already knew that. LOL! That's why I send it to you Brenda and ask you to trim the fat from it. Great blog!

Lisa Kumar said...

Great post! I'm definitely guilty of everything you described, but the worst is deciding to cut a whole scene or chapter! That always threatens to give me a heart attack until I remind myself that I can stash the my deleted words in another file in case I ever have need of them. Then I feel all better. How silly is that?

Brenda said...

LOL, Jenna, I may have slipped a little something special in the eggnog--it tis the festive season.
I am the same as you. My favorite word of all time is just. I literally use it all the time, even when I'm speaking.
Thanks for coming by.
I also would like to think I'm getting better, or should I say, writing cleaner, but sadly, I'm not.
I still have to chop out an enormous amount of clutter.

Brenda said...

Allison, doesn't it feel good to unburden your secrets, hehehehe?
I forget to add sensory details and setting details. My MS's always grow in word count from rough draft to the finished product.

Brenda said...

LOL, Tabby. I know you don't like getting rid of anything. But you don't give yourself enough credit. You have learned how to tighten your prose.

Tammy said...

Good post, Brenda!! Tish and I are cutting as we speak...She however is doing alot of grumbling...LOL

Brenda said...

Lisa, yes, never delete any scenes--store them. Never know, you may need them back or they may be useful for a different story.
Thanks so much for stopping by!

Brenda said...

Hi, Tammy. Say hi to Tish for me.
Cutting can be a huge pain in the butt, but the effort is so worth it.
I'm happy to see you! Thanks for stopping by.

Nikki said...

Great advice Brenda! :)

*finds the scissors and prepares to cut* Snip, snip!

D'Ann said...

Very good advice!