Monday, January 10, 2011

Cutting Your Favorite Line

I am not a virgin when it comes to editing, nor am I cautious about moving things around.  I love my read pen nearly as much as I love my delete button, but that doesn’t mean editing is easy.   It’s a grueling task filled with self-doubt, second guessing, and a whole lot of faith.

When I edited Cedar for submission it involved a major revision to one specific character.  It was time-consuming, but the scope was defined, my choices narrowed down to one character’s actions and motives. That is not the case with my newest WIP Inside Out.

The revisions to Inside Out are broad sweeping.  They involve not only the tweaking of characters, but changes in timing and place.  I need to remove entire chapters, delete and re-insert dialogue, and introduce a completely new character.  In essence, I have hacked my masterpiece down to the bare bones, massacred its characters, and left them in a weeping pile of messy prose.   Now I have to piece it back together, create something even better than the original.  It is daunting, scary, and has me questioning every stroke of my pen.

It is times like these that my muse pops her head out, not with astounding dialogue or imaginative ideas, but with advice.  I was sitting her last night, staring at a specific phrase, my finger hovering over the delete key afraid to actually take that definitive step. Then I remembered a piece of advice offered to me months back -- “Don’t be afraid to cut your favorite line.”

A good manuscript is not defined by a one amazing sentence, but a combination of characters, and situations, and astoundingly good prose.  I have to trust that my other 72,000 words will make up for the seven-word sentence I finally did delete.  So how about you -- do love or hate editing?


  1. I get hung up during the revision process on these things too. Good thing I have an excellent hacking partner;)

  2. Good luck with your massive revision, you can do it! I do enjoy editing, for the most part. But it can be very hard. It's just awesome to see a better version of my story coming together, you know?

  3. I hate cutting sentences I love. Usually, I paste them into another document so it doesn't FEEL like I'm deleting them. Who knows, they may fit in better with a different story down that road.
    Good luck with those revisions!

  4. I have really mixed emotions about editing. When I have a definite focus and know exactly what needs to be changed, then it's fun. When the suggestions are like "this character needs to be stronger" then I want to poke myself in the eye.

    How's Inside Out coming, BTW?

  5. Whew! This post made me tired! lol

    I love the first round of editing. I become somewhat distant with the second. By the third I'm in a love/hate relationship.

    But I have to take weeks off at a time to refresh my perspective.

  6. I don't like it as much as I like writing the first draft, but I do enjoy going back to reread what I'd forgotten about. I try to do three or so rounds before sending my work to betas; by then, I'm pretty tired of editing and just want to write something new. :)

  7. I have a love hate relationship with editing. I love it because it helps me make my story the best it can be. And at times I hate it because I end up cutting scenes/characters that I really like.

    Similar to LS Murphy, I save each days work as a new file so I never really lose those characters/scenes, and can pull them into new works.

    Best of luck with your editing, and you know I'm here to read it when you're ready!

  8. I've heard LS Murphy's advice before -- keep a "deletion file" to toss all the rejects in; it doesn't hurt as much and sometimes there are good ideas in there, just ones in the wrong place.

  9. As a newbie, I find posts and advice like this so interesting and motivating. I also follow the idea like LS Murphy and keep edited offcuts in a notebook. Good luck with Inside Out.
    There is a blog award for you over at mine...

  10. I hate editing - but love the results. I have cut favourite lines and it is very painful but like someone mentioned above, I usually save some of the things I cut in a new document - just in case I want them back. Interestingly, I almost never re-insert favourite lines that I have cut.

  11. Oh, I am scared to delete, but I do it well. The editing process is the toughest for me.