28 June 2013 - 5:29 pm

Random Writing Tip #5: Cut the Crap

So, you wrote a bunch of crap. This is not a bad thing. You got to the end; now it’s time to weed out all those crappy bits and turn your turd into a diamond.

Look at that cute little face! Cut it anyway. You know it's right. (Picture by Richard Scott 33)

Look at that cute little face! Cut it anyway. You know it’s right.
(Picture by Richard Scott 33)

It’s so tempting to keep that adorable scene where the heroine stops to pat a puppy on the head, because it’s just so cute. Or the hero musing about that childhood friend he misses. Or the antagonist primping in front of the mirror before a big confrontation.

Cut it out. No, really. Be ruthless.

Is it necessary for the story? Does it serve any purpose? No? Then it’s crap and needs to be consigned to the editing room floor.

Extra bits like this are a distraction. They can ruin the pace of the narrative, taking the reader by the hand and skipping them off down a leafy tangent that, while pretty, isn’t quite what they signed up for. They were quite happy on the bus to Kickass Storyville, thank you very much.

Every pause and break is an excuse to put your story down and wander off for a cup of tea or a beer. Don’t give your reader excuses; nail them to the seat until you’re done with them.

So challenge all those little scenes. It could be a paragraph or a whole chapter, but if it doesn’t add something to the story, it doesn’t need to be there. It’s crap; cut it out. Refine your story down to its essence and bare it to the world.

What’s worth keeping, I hear you ask? What makes it not crap that’s just cluttering up my story? It must progress the story or reveal something important about the character.

While it might be interesting to know that the heroine has a soft spot for puppies, is this important to the story or her development as a person? Do we care about the hero’s childhood friend; does he turn up at all? Is the antagonist’s primping a way to show the reader that he needs to build himself up before meeting his opponent, a glimpse of the man beneath the makeup, or just filler?

Challenge everything. Make those moments earn their place in your story, because you want to give your reader the best story you possibly can. Make them do double-duty if you can, or triple, or more. Every word you spin is precious, so don’t let it turn into crap that weakens your story.

The word of today is: superfluous. Find it, know it, cut it out.

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  1. Francisco says:

    I would also add that, if you can, get a trusted friend to read it because they may see things that you didn’t.

    June 29th, 2013 at 9:05 pm

  2. Mel says:

    Completely agree, Francisco! Sometimes you need another perspective to determine what’s filler and what’s necessary.

    June 30th, 2013 at 12:07 pm