You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke. ~Arthur Polotnik
In editing a short story this weekend I cut my favorite lines. Yes, it was painful, I thought they were brilliant when I wrote them but after many critiques the reality was they stood out and many readers thought they were too clever, too contrived.
Many editors will say you need to cut your favorite lines, they are often just fluff where the real stuff is hidden underneath. In Steering the Craft, Ursula LeGuin has a powerful exercise in editing. Take a piece of writing (anything over 400 words) and cut it by half. Cut it in half but keep the “narrative clear and the sensory impact vivid”. She suggests that by cutting the dialogue in half (if there is any) you will see what your characters are really saying. Today, try this exercise, what is left? Is it strong powerful writing? Anton Chekhov’s advice in revising a short story throw out the first three pages! Now get back to work!
The Writing Nag