All writing is rewriting. So editing is something we writers must be good at (well, good might not be the best word for the ninja like precision we must hack away at our beloveds). We must be swift and merciless when it comes to cutting down description, dialogue, and the stuff I like to call “fluff” (the extra things you might like and want to add but aren’t truly necessary to tell the story). Sometimes we have to cut whole, beautiful, emotional scenes or likable characters…there’s that pang in my chest just thinking about it…because it doesn’t work. It doesn’t drive the story. As a screenwriter, I think it’s worse. You only have 120 pages (or less) and there’s so much blank page (and then there are so many more hands in that pot as it moves forward). As creatives, placing limitations on our process is a contradiction. That’s why you write from the heart in the first draft and from the head in the inevitable numerous following drafts. *And this is why you don’t need to read the following articles until you are ready to edit. Don’t let them sway you.
Yes, we create something out of nothing. But. That first draft is never as good as it seemed in our heads. Sometimes to get our character from point A to point B they have to take a few detours and that changes the story on the page from where we originally imagined it. So, there has to be finessing, finding different ways to say the same thing, and the inevitable (just in time for Halloween) horror movie style slashing.
I, myself, am in the midst of yet another rewrite on one of my scripts, my baby, and am really having a difficult time separating my emotions from the story I’m trying to tell and the best way to tell it. I’ve had this story in the works for quite some time and every time I go in for a rewrite, it changes dramatically. This time around, I’m cutting the entire third act and reworking the earlier scenes and it’s starting to morph into something else entirely, yet again, which at this point, I’m not even sure I like yet. And what’s worse, I’m on a deadline.
So today I offer up two sites with some tips. The first is an article by one of my favorite authors, Chuck Palahniuk, on LitReactor about “thought” verbs. The other is a checklist by The Write Life — 25 Editing Tips for Tightening Your Copy.
I wish you all the best in your writing efforts! Have a great week!