For most people, editing is about excising. You trim out all of those unnecessary words and details and phrases and commas. You said too much. You described too much. You gave him too much to say. Stephen King even comes up with a basic formula for editing your story that goes as follows:
First Draft – Ten Percent= Second Draft
It’s one of the more difficult challenges for most writers because you have to determine what’s actually crap and what’s actually good, what actually helps the story and what hurts it. Even if that paragraph is utterly brilliant in terms of language and artistry and characterization, it’s unnecessary. And that’s the key word: unnecessary. Pare it down, clip it out, get rid of it, especially it doesn’t help the story go forward.
I don’t have that problem so much. Yes, I do clip out my fair share of badly used and superfluous words, but, for the most part, that’s not my problem. My problem is my first draft is always anemic and pared down already to the point that the story is skeletal. I’m an impatient reader and viewer and I’ll rail against authors who spend their sweet time getting where I want to be going. And when I write, I do the same thing. Why show this? The reader understands! Why show that? The reader can figure it out.
My murder mystery looks like the following: The body is found. The detective looks at the body. Ah-ha! He says. He captures the killer. Fin
I ignore little things, insignificant things like: personalizing the victim, describing the investigation, adding in a second murder to really kick it up a notch. I know the tropes and the cliches and the tools and the frameworks; I just choose not to utilize any of them because I want to go from A to B in the fewest number of steps.
So my editing process ends up being the exact opposite of Mr. King’s advice. I fatten. I add. I write more pages and boost the word count way up and flesh it out and grow it out. It’s the process of adding flesh to a skeleton. For me and for writers like me, it’s more:
First Draft + Twenty Percent = Second Draft
What about you? How does editing work for you? What do you have to do after completing that first draft?
One thought on “Paring It Down”
I’ve noticed a huge improvement in your writing because of all that description you add–if a writer gets that balance right, descriptions and details and complications can get the reader more invested. But, I *like* more extras, vs. less.
When I write, I always get bogged down in editing as I’m writing, whihc really breaks up the whole flow.