Yesterday, I deleted nearly 600 words from a story that I have been working on for the last two weeks. Did it hurt? You bet it did. But by doing so, it improved the story dramatically.
The more experience I gain as a writer, the more I edit. The more I edit, the more experience I gain as a writer.
George Lucas, talking about film editing, gives us an excellent definition on the subject. His words apply to story editing, as well. He says, “The whole process of editing is a process of paring the film down and keeping all the relevant material and getting rid of all the material that doesn’t work for one reason or another.”
How do you edit a story? What do you leave in? Take out?
There are a slew of books written on the editing process – each is similar and different, depending upon the technique offered for the editing solutions. But with all the diversity between each book, there is one theory that has remained constant ever since man first learned how to hold a pencil: If you find a word, sentence or paragraph that does not move the story forward, take it out.
Every word must advance the story from opening line to concluding sentence. Every device you enter in your story should have significance in some form or another. Every character must play an important role and every word your character utters must have meaning.
There are many books that have failed to maintain interest simply because the author decided to mosey down a parallel path he found interesting, one that had little or nothing to do with the original storyline. How many films have done the same?
Keep your eye on your target. Edit out all that is unnecessary, even the parts that you’ve worked on for hours. Keep nothing that doesn’t point the reader in the direction you decided he should go. You may lose many words in the editing process, but you will keep your readers, and they will keep coming back for more.