Friday, August 26, 2011

Writer, What a Big Story You Have! Better Cut It, My Dear

We're all told to cut our stories. We know we should. It's a rule. Give your reader the tip of the iceberg, not the whole darn thing. Jackie devoted a post to finding the "ness" instead of pouring all that we know about a character onto the page. But will cutting ever hurt the story? What if you're an over-cutter [this is like being an overachiever only with a delete button]? Do such stories exist? Have you ever wanted more?

When does cutting hurt the voice? Are you a minimalist who must flesh out the story? I can think of several examples where the protagonist's voice wouldn't be her own if the author had wielded a scalpel like Hannibal--Ida B comes to mind.

Are you a staunch pro-cutter? What happens if you cut a major plot artery? What if the voice bleeds off the page?

What do y'all think?

*Irene's fast approaching the NC coast. She's a pro-cutter; the electricity's first on her list. Time to gather the candles and lanterns and cut this draft. Stay safe, East Coasters!*


  1. I think I have the opposite problem, I need to add more!

  2. Same here, Phyllis, depending on the story. Don't you love fleshing out a scene? Finding those hotspots where we can ratchet the tension, build the drama, slow narrative time or speed it up...

  3. I'll take a story or section and say, "I'm going to get 300 words out of here today. Rock on!" There's usually some kind of boastful arm motion along with the challenge, like I'm a WWF wrestler trash-talking. If a sentence goes flat because of a trim, then I just reinstate the original and find the words to cut somewhere else--because 300 words of this piece are GOING DOWN!

  4. I need a thirty-second video clip of this "trash-talking," Cheryl! You have made my day! Giving yourself a goal to cut so many words may help with those who hesitate to cut. I'm a bit Draconian in revision and often wake up in the morning and wonder why I don't just throw the whole ms away or burn it in the fire pit. I don't trust myself. Thank goodness for advisors and their rational advice. :0)