What Makes the Cut?

March 21, 2011

When writing magazine articles, I’d often have a week or two or even three to come up with a 1500- to 2,000-word article. In 2000 words, you have to become skillful at getting to the point, kind of like updating your status on Twitter. Less is more. Not only did I have more time to write fewer words, but I spent much of that time cutting words. In fact, I often spent more time cutting than writing. So in writing a 50,000- to 90,000-word novel, things change a little bit.

First of all, if I write 2,000 words every week or so, the first draft of my book won’t be finished for at least a year–maybe two. My goal is to write at least a thousand words a day. And, if I go with the “less is more” strategy, my full-length book will become a short story, instead of a novel…many of my ideas have become short stories, and that’s not where I want my writing to go right now. After more than 20 years of trying to get the most impact from the fewest words, I’m trying to switch gears.

I catch myself re-reading pages, and cutting words or sentences, and realizing, that I wrote a thousand words a day that week, and then managed to cut out 3,000 words from the last two weeks work. Yikes! Maybe I should work on movie scripts instead. I could take a full-length novel and make it a 90-minute movie with no problem. Very often I like the edited version better, but then I’m worried about making the scene too short, not getting enough into the chapter.

As I said in a previous rant, I’m not writing with a real outline. What I’m hoping will happen as I get further along is that when I finish my first draft, I’ll be able to go back through and actually fill in information and imagery. Not just fluff to pump up the word count, but real substance to give the story shape. My draft would become something of an outline for the final product. (Hey, that kind of solves my outlining issues!)

So what makes the cut when you’re writing? Do you find that you want to slash words, thoughts, paragraphs…even whole scenes? Or if you moved to script writing, would your work be a made-for-television mini-series? I’d love to hear what makes the cut?


4 Responses to “What Makes the Cut?”

  1. KimberlyFDR Says:

    I already have cut entire scenes 😉 For my first draft, I’m just going full-speed ahead and writing the scenes chronologically as they come on my writing days. On the expansion days I’ll go back and refine/expand/cut inside that scene if I’ve taken a turn that was unintended or if something needs more explanation.

    This isn’t my real edit, just my first draft, so I’m not cutting at this stage unless absolutely necessary. During real edit stage, though, there’s going to be strong cuts so that I can strengthen the entire storyline and make it the best story I can.

  2. Hey, Kimberly, we have similar writing styles. I too write a first draft that is basically getting the story out, and then I have different stages of adding to and editing. When I edit, I can cut–big time. I’ve written 90K-word single titles only to come out of the editing process with 70K words. So I cut more to make the ms a category romance. 🙂


  3. Tari Says:

    I’m pretty much doing the same as you two, I’m just letting the story come out, and trying not to edit as I go, it slows me up too much, but I catch myself when I re-read the previous days work, crossing things out with my pen as I go, and making lots of notes. Old habits are so hard to break!!

  4. Dalice Says:

    Tari, somebody said something on twitter recently that caught my eye – write it first, then get it right. My internal editor is an absolute nightmare so instead of re-reading the previous days work, at the end of a day i write a summary of main points and start with that when I pick up again, and maybe the last sentence from the previous day. Sometimes my editor decides to intrude while I’m typing – I turn off my screen now! good luck with the novel. Looking forward to ordering it from Amazon!

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