Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

We all have our little darlings, words, lines, scenes, chapters, that we love. Then a critique partner or an editor comes along and slashes a line right through them. Feedback is provided, such as: episodic, redundant, doesn’t have anything to do with the story, takes away from the immediacy of the scene … and many, many other disheartening reasons why the darlings have to be destroyed.

As the one who gave birth to the darling, an author often attempts to do everything she can to save them. She holds them up and claims their cuteness, their intelligence, even their entertainment value. Even when she can’t explain how they are necessary to the story, an author might cling to them with all her might.

The truth is, in fiction, we can’t afford to waste a single word. They must be integral to the story, or they must be slashed.

When examining a manuscript for these darlings, it is good to approach them with that thought in mind. Are they necessary or is it just something that the author likes?

If it’s something that the author likes, then there are two options: make it integral to the story or take it out.

Is the author holding on to characters that really don’t belong? There are three options: rework the story to make them count, save them for another novel, or get rid of them.

Is the scene/location a “must-have” even though it’s a rabbit trail for a million reasons that only the author knows? Two options exist: Get the bunny on the right trail and make the scene/location necessary to the story, or stop chasing the rabbit and stay on the right path.

Are the words just perfect prose whose loss would be a disservice to humanity? One option here. Take the first step in getting over yourself and delete it.

I know this is some tough talk, but as one who loves to hold on to my own darling words, scenes, and chapters, sometimes it takes tough love to help me to get rid of them.

Happy editing.

1 comment: