Saturday, October 21, 2006

cutting vs. embellishing

My novel needs cutting, and this made me think about the crucial writing question--is it easier to cut a draft or to add to it? My sister the poet is firmly on the side of cutting, which to her is the easiest thing in the world, especially when she's talking about my prose. ("You don't need that beginning--just lop it off!")
I'm not sure what I think. I do find word and phrase cutting pretty easy--I've often cut something in a snip-snip way so I could do it at a reading and not exceed my time (and often I find many of the cuts to be so reasonable that I let them stand). But I'm by nature an embellisher--when I sit down at the computer my brain starts going with new characters who must be put in, a subplot here, a new complication there.
I've started thinking in terms of scenes that might go. I love the chapter where Carl and Jason go out to look at the iron furnace out in the woods and Carl falls in and has to be rescued, but maybe it's not essential. And then when Carl and Emma go to look for Lily in Conkle's Hollow--does that really need to be two chapters? Couldn't it be one, and much shorter?
What do other writers do with these short-circuited chapters and scenes? I myself preserve them frugally in a separate folder and I tell myself that maybe I'll use them later, in a short story of their own perhaps. But mainly I save them because I can't bear to let them go absolutely, which is probably one of the 7 deadly faults of writers, an idea which maybe deserves a post of its own.


Blogger Kate S. said...

I think that the answer to the question that you pose has everything to do with one's writing style. I tend toward minimalism so paring things down comes naturally to me. Whereas when an editor asks for a little more here or there, I heave a deep, distressed sigh. That's not to say that I haven't had to give up some cherished passages--stuff that I fondly believe to be beautifully written but which I ultimately have to concede doesn't propel the story forward. Like you, I save those bits in the hope of being able to use them somewhere else. Even if I never do though, they never really seem to me to be wasted. It's as if just having conceived of them makes the narrative richer so that even once they've been removed the positive effect lingers in the text.

10/21/2006 7:14 PM  
Anonymous jadepark said...

i save those little bits, too. i always think i'll use them again, but years later, they still linger in old word doc files.

i wonder what would happen if i were to delete them! the act of letting go completely (and not just within the manuscript) might open up some more creative outlets!

10/22/2006 1:36 AM  
Blogger lucette said...

Kate--I know the "deep, distressed sigh!"
Jade--even reading the words "if I were to delete them" gave me a little fear frisson.

10/22/2006 10:02 AM  
Blogger K-Oh said...

No one ever asks me to cut. I tend to write so tightly (although this wasn't always the case) that people usually tell me to plump things up. And that's hard, like pulling apart a wall to insert a room.

My goal for the next piece of fiction I work on--perhaps that abandoned short story about the thief?--is to let myself write fast and loose and big.

10/24/2006 9:36 AM  
Blogger lucette said...

I like the sound of fast and loose and big.
For myself, I'm dying to write in 1st person again.

10/24/2006 4:56 PM  

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