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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tuesday Writing Tip~Deleting

Cutting sentences, paragraphs, or even chapters from your novel can be a painful process, but it doesn't have to be. I kept hearing the advice that I needed to cut the prologue from my novel because~according to agents and editors dishing out the advice~no one reads prologues anymore. I disagreed, fought against the advice, and probably got more than a few rejections because of it. Finally I caved and deleted it, but I discovered a way to keep it relatively painless. I'm not saying you should or shouldn't delete prologues because I still love them both as a reader and a writer, but the deleting part is easier for me now.

Tip: Keep a file of all the things you delete that you'd rather not, or think might come in handy later. Here's the real gem in the tip; you can use deleted chapters or prologues later as promotional material released on your blog or website.

27 comments:

  1. Great tip! This is something I am getting better at. :-)

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  2. That's exactly what I was thinking as I started reading your post! And you know what else? I don't think I've ever re-inserted anything I've cut anyway. But it's good to know it's still there.

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  3. This is exactly what I do! It's too painful to cut it and say it's gone forever. So I ease myself into it and say I'm just setting it aside. :)

    Great tip!

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  4. Great hint. Nip and tuck away for a better spot in the novel. Short but memorable and useful because of that, Roland

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  5. This is so true! I've heard editors say the more concise, the better, and try to make two good scenes into one strong scene, or turn two good sentences into one strong one, etc. And that is never easy! Good point on the file of deleted material. Idk what I'd do if I didn't have one. Thanks for the great post!

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  6. I agree...deleting things from your writing can definitely be a difficult task! As a writer (both creatively and academically), one of my weaknesses is that I can tend to get rather wordy, so this is something that I always end up doing in the revision process!

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  7. I do this, too. If I keep everything in a file, it doesn't feel like it's a permanent cut, even if it is.

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  8. Shannon, me too! It gets easier. :)

    Lisa, I don't think I have either now that you mention it. Funny how that works!

    Renee, setting it aside, I like that!

    Roland, so true! I've moved things later that I cut in prior revisions so that's a great point.

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  9. Cortney, I've heard that a lot too. Thank you, and you're very welcome!

    Sarah, you're welcome!

    Natalie, me too! I end up cutting quite a lot because of it.

    E.R., it makes it less painful, for sure!

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  10. And who doesn't love reading a "deleted scene"? So much fun and great promotional material.

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  11. Great advice, and love that hint! I'm convinced that anyone who knows themselves to be an overwriter, especially if overwriting is in certain categories, like description or action or internal monologue, will improve their ms. immensely by deleting what can be deleted without losing the feeling and storyline of the novel.

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  12. I usually move anything I delete (bigger than a paragraph or two) into a new file . . . I hadn't thought of using it as promotional material, though. Thanks for the tip!

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  13. Tina, exactly! They're great promotional tools later!

    Linda, it helps take the sting out of it for sure!

    Golden Eagle, you're welcome!

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  14. I had to learn to delete the hard way-being stubborn at first. I'm trying to not do that anymore. Cutting words and scenes got my MG manuscript within the acceptable word count and the pace is faster. Thanks for the tips.

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  15. I love to cut. I feel like it's getting rid of dead weight and I feel pounds lighter! But, yes, sometimes the beginning is the hardest part. And saving them is an excellent idea!

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  16. Heather, I still don't know where agents get this idea that no one "reads" prologues. I've seen a lot of writers still use them--Dan Brown and John Everson being two I can think of off the top of my head.

    However, yeah. If you are afraid of deleiting somethign you might use later, do exactly that--a separate document of what you took out. That way, should you think you need something in there, you've still got it! I have a whole bunch of scenes from original Vampire Ascending that I still want to turn into another book, or novelette.

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  17. I have a full folder of deleted scenes and chapters. And you're right, you can use as bonus material.

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  18. Natalie, it was a hard lesson for me to learn too. I still struggle with it at times. ;)

    Anna, it sounds so freeing when you put it that way! Love it!

    Lorelei, I know huh?! And oh wow, you totally should, I'd love to read that!

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  19. Oh yes cutting/deleting is very heartbreaking for me. But since I tend to write my first draft skinny, I get to fill up the second draft with much more meat...then back to cutting it out by draft 5. How depressing...

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  20. Karen, great minds think alike! ;)

    LM, it is a bit depressing but knowing it will be somewhere helps.

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  21. That's a great advice. It's often harder to write more concise, and it's very painful to cut scenes that you liked writing to begin with. But sometimes very necesary. But I like the tip to keep all of those in a separate file and later on make them part of the "extras" for the book. I know I personally love reading them.

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  22. NO! I refuse to delete my prologue. :) But... with that said, I actually deleted the first chapter after about the third edit. Backstory. Scary. I also deleted maybe up to four or perhaps five other chapters, or huge chunks of them. But, it works. And... I too am not afraid of deleting.

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  23. Yelena, so true! I love thinking of them as extras for the book later, great idea.

    Karlene, don't worry, most of the consensus of readers is that they like them or don't mind them. And with all the 'house cleaning' you've done with your novel I know it's polished to perfection!

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  24. Deleting is my worst nightmare!!! But I love the idea of keeping a file of all the deleted material! It does make the act more bearable! :/ I love prologues too :) I've been reading a bunch of Clive Cussler books and I absolutely LOVE the prologues!!!!

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  25. Ha, that's totally what I do! I never end up fishing anything out of my scrap book file, but it's so much easier to part with it when I know it's somewhere safe. So I COULD get it if I wanted!

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  26. Saba, I'm so glad to find another person who loves prologues!

    Amie, it does feel better knowing it's somewhere safe!

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