Tuesday, November 17

Posted by Laurel Garver on Tuesday, November 17, 2009 2 comments
I'm in the process of cutting 14,000 words out of my manuscript, which obviously requires more than simple line edits. Big, honking chunks must go: characters, subplots, dragging scenes, entire chapters. My main problems seem to be a story that started in the wrong place (so long, chapter 1!) and a saggy, draggy middle. But the solution isn't simply removing material--how simple that would be! Instead, I need to replace bloated sections with tightly-written, plot-moving NEW scenes.

Identifying problem areas was the first step. I bracketed a section of five chapters in which the scenes don't pull their weight. And then? KA-BOOM!

What do I mean by "Ka-boom"? Figurative TNT: I quickly dismantle a big section into components, some of which may still be usable. Like Mary Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein, I pick through an array of parts and sew together the strongest to create a new creature. Most often in my case it's settings/scenarios that stay, while the actions or actors or conversational tone or information revealed may need to change significantly. Zippy bits of dialogue and beautiful descriptions from otherwise plot-slowing scenes can find greater vitality when grafted into a new location.

Yes, revision sometimes requires "killing your darlings." Other times, it involves radical surgery or even "Frankensteining" (if I may stretch a strained metaphor) to give you darlings--and your work as a whole--health and vigor.


  1. It's even nicer when some of those body parts up and take on their own life, like Thing in the Addams Family, no? Yay for flash-fiction recycling!

  2. Great thoughts on "killing our darlings." And so very true. I will think of this post today as I am moving and shifting and otherwise torturing my MS to make it the BEST story EVAH! :)