Wednesday, April 23, 2008

On writing: Cut!

We’ve talked about writing with focus, because knowing the purpose of your piece controls your word choices. We’ve talked about trimming all that isn’t part of that focus, calling it Michelangelo’s angel.

Now, here’s another author’s advice to writers:

Less is more. Sometimes publishers hire me to rewrite a book. The author had a great idea but had trouble bringing the writing up to expectations. I've noticed that all these books have something in common: tons of unneeded words. I can say the same for many of the manuscripts I've read by aspiring writers. My rule is this: If you can get rid of a word without weakening the sentence, then do it. Don't hesitate. Don't waffle over it. Cut it. Squash it. Exorcise it. Evict the little bugger. He's a freeloader who snuck on the train when no one was looking. Do this for the whole book. Perform literary liposuction. When you do, you will be left with what we arrogant writers call "tight writing." Will you do it perfectly? No. Some time ago I was listening to an audio version of one of my books while I tortured myself on the treadmill. I caught myself saying, "Didn't need that word . . . Could have done without the adjective . . . what was I thinking?" So my advice in a word is: cut. I wish I had learned this sooner.

-Alton Gansky

1 comment:

Maxine said...

This is so helpful, Kathy. I see it all the time when I read over my writing and there are always too many unwanted critters! I did a little revision course from the Institute of Children's Literature and this was the thing they stressed most: weedy words.