Sunday, March 14, 2010

Open Surgery

So... as a writer if step one is write the story, then rewrite and revise until one's sure it's the best it can be... send it off. Then I've finally come to step two... the editor likes it, it's just too long.

Normal revision requires changing and polishing in order to make a piece just perfect. It requires adding that little bit of detail here and there, filling out the shadows and focusing the spotlight. But cutting 700-800 words out of a 4300 word piece is more like preforming open surgery! (something I've never really done before).

It's true that in some cases less is more. However, the reverse, more is less, isn't necessarily true. One of my recent failings is to try and cram too much into too few words and in those cases a more words is definitely better. I love the way Holly Lisle approaches editing and revising. She looks at her story like a surgeon. First looking at the whole story, learning what is working as it is and why, followed by what isn't working as well. She marks the most important sections (what things absolutely need to be kept) and then the sections which need work, noting what specifically that work is. By the time she gets to the revising she is an expert on the story and how it's innards function in relation to the whole. She explains her process in her course syllabus, which can be found at Unfortunately I can't afford the cost of her course at the moment, but I hope to take it in the future.

The thing that's scary about cutting ones baby open is one really has to be careful not to butcher it because no editor is going to want a butchered story. One especially has to be careful if said editor definitely wants one to resend him the revised, shorter story because he likes it. So in my case, minor surgery is more the goal, clean up any little ends, prune away any dead skin, rework the odd sentence, and condense (if possible) with deliberateness and design in order to lower the word count. The baby has to stay whole and functional. Definitely a little daunting.

So here's to being a little nervous and excited at this opportunity to learn how to lower my word count with finesse while keeping the story's integrity intact and maybe improving it in the process. A skill I definitely want (and need) to learn. Wish me luck. I'm sure I'll be writing about this more - after my successful editing job :)

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