So, you’ve finally done it! You’ve written your masterpiece! You took the time, you put in the hard work, you lost the appropriate amount of sleep, you’ve done all you could to rub the severe ache out of your sore and tired fingers! It’s finished! Your project! Your baby! Yay! Hold it up to the sky like Simba in “The Lion King” and beam with all the pride you deserve! You’ve earned it!
Now… I want you to take that healthy piece of work, give it a loving kiss… and then start HACKING IT TO PIECES!!! Fingers, toes, arms, legs… it’s time to butcher your creation and hope for the best. Such is the plight of the internet author. Or any author, for that matter. It can really suck sometimes, but if you want your story to be as potent and as effective as you’re hoping it will be… then sacrifices must be made. So make them, we shall. Hopefully, this article will help you to trim some of the fat off of your story and only keep the core protein of the tale you’re trying to tell.
Now, if you’re wondering whether or not you wrote too much… let me help you. You wrote too much. Trust me. Hehehe! Something that I’ve learned over time is that writing ‘in the moment’ can sometimes cause this emotional stream of consciousness to take over, and you end up writing more than you probably should. I notice this in a lot of my own writing, especially now that I’ve been going back and re-editing earlier works for ebooks. I definitely love to build a complete scene and add as much physical and emotional detail as humanly possible. I want to know what the main character is seeing, feeling, touching, tasting. I want to get in their heads and let the reader experience it as if they were really there. However, looking back on some of the stuff I’ve written in the past, I realize the importance of trying to streamline whatever it is that I’m trying to say and maybe hold back a little bit more. Everything sounds great when you’re writing it, but when you go back to it later and some of that instant attachment has faded, you begin to find the overstuffed parts of the story. Some details can be wordy and overwhelming, some aren’t even necessary. You can find yourself getting repetitive, even though that was never your intention. While there are some moments that you can truly paint a wonderful picture, elaborating on everything that’s going on around your protagonist… there are other moments when extra details and dialogue can act as an ‘anchor’, dragging the flow of your story down to a crawl and making it a tedious read for your audience. If something is slowing down the plot… get rid of it.
Don’t test the attention span of your readers. Because you are one backspace click away from having your story abandoned.
You may be wondering, “But how do I know what to keep and what to throw away?” It takes a lot of practice, but if you keep going back and reading through your own writing, you’ll soon develop an instinct for detecting all the things that don’t belong there. It’s almost like a 6th sense, in a way. You simply have to train yourself to step back a little, get away from the words, and look at the story. Meaning… if you had to sum up what your entire story was about in an interesting and exciting way in a single minute… what would you say? Imagine that you’ve only got those 60 seconds to convince someone to give your story a shot over all of the other stories out there on the internet. Keep that personal sales pitch in mind, re-read what you wrote, and ask yourself… “Is this scene important enough to be included in my pitch?” Is it something that really needs to be there in order for your story to make sense? Is it a part of the exciting story you told the readers about when you sold them on giving you a try? If not… get rid of it. It can be heartbreaking to part ways with certain scenes and characters that you put so much heart into when you originally wrote it, but all that hard work will be wasted if it takes away from the appeal of your story as a whole. Don’t bog yourself down with too many distractions. Even if you decide to take the ‘scenic route’ every now and then, the goal is to get from Point A (The set up) to Point B (The solution) in an effective manner. Wander too far off the road, and your readers might not follow.
Think of the movie “The Matrix” (If you’ve seen it. If not… shame on you! Hehehe!). In that movie, you have someone who has suddenly realized that his whole life has been a technologically fabricated dream, and that none of it was real. From there, the story moves forward toward its climax. Now think about how many possible questions that revelation leaves unanswered. This person has lived in a computer generated illusion his entire LIFE! He had a childhood. He went to high school. He had parents, and friends, and college roommates, and birthday parties, and ex-girlfriends. All of that NEVER happened! What does he think about that? How does he process that? Where are his parents? What about all the friends of his who are still in the Matrix? How does he go back and find them? You want to know the answer? The answer is… NOBODY CARES! Hehehe! All of that stuff, while great to ponder and speculate on from time to time… it has nothing to do with the story that is being told. If you even touch on any one of those subjects (Which will each end up being an entire story of its own), you’re going to go off on a tangent and derail your whole train of thought. It’s not that those aspects of the story are completely irrelevant, but they don’t belong in the story that you’re trying to tell. Push those thoughts out of the moving car and focus on the plot of your project. It’s so easy for things to become a confusing, jumbled, mess if you don’t stay on point.
I’m not saying that you can’t have fun and stray a little bit from the plot for random moments that build character, add humor, or provide more info and a backstory when it comes to the creative world that you’ve built. That’s actually a GOOD thing! But when it comes down to cutting out the stuff you don’t need later on… you’re going to have to sharpen those knives and be brutally honest with yourself when it comes to slicing and dicing parts of your own story that you might love… but ultimately have to part with. Sometimes, that can be a few sentences here and there. Other times, it might be entire scenes or conversations that create a ‘drag’ on your story’s momentum. Learn to recognize those moments, and do your best to seal up the wound left behind when you cut out the unwanted material.
Like I said, it all comes down to personal instinct. And that only comes with practice and discipline. So go back and study your own work. It helps. The better you get at correcting past mistakes… the better you’ll get at avoiding them in the future. And you’ll become a better writer for it.
I know it hurts! Hehehe, believe me… I KNOW! Just… highlight the unwanted text… close your eyes… and hit that delete button! You’ll feel so much better once all that excess is gone!
I certainly hope this helps! This has been ‘Comsie Talks’ January, 2017! And I’ll seezya soon!