Thursday, February 10, 2011
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Now on to your regularly scheduled Mb4 post...
How to Slenderize Your Manuscript by Kim Smith
One of the things that gives me a happy frame of mind when writing is to have a clean, unfettered manuscript. When I wake up in the morning and open a WIP that has been edited, that has a streamline feel, and there isn’t garbage cluttering it up, I feel great.
When, on the other hand, I open my book and find extra plot-lines/unnecessary characters or just bad writing all over the place, it stresses me out.
These are a few tips for getting the junk out:
Do it in small chunks. Set aside 5 pages to work on at a time, and when that 5 is satisfactory, stop. Then tackle another 5 the next day. Conquering the entire work can be overwhelming, and you might decide it is hopeless and find yourself uncomfortably blocked.
Set aside a couple hours to do it. This may seem elementary… and it is. It’s simply a different strategy, and I say do whatever works for you. Sometimes, for me, it’s good to set aside part of a manuscript, or an entire scene to do in a set amount of time. The weekends are perfect! Just whatever works best for me in the time I have.
Sort through your manuscript and cut scenes and rearrange them. Have a folder to put the cut scenes in handy. When you pull everything out of a scene, send it to the new folder (I call this OUTTAKES but I am an old videographer, too). Put in new material, and make a decision: trash the old, add old to new, or keep new and leave old for a while until you are certain it won't hurt anything else in the book. Don’t put it back in the pile for a good while. You may find you never need it again, but that scene could fit in another work, or give you a muse-tweak that sends the book in a new direction.
Study your habits and see if you are making these unnecessary plots or characters out of a bad habit. Sometimes there’s a reason you have pages of crap all over the place, and an OUTTAKES folder that is stuffed full. Craft books with emphasis on writing tight might help.
Celebrate when you’re done! Give yourself a big old pat on the back. This sort of cleaning out the old junk and rearranging or reordering or plain old remaking your book is very therapeutic.
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Kim, I think you're a lot more disciplined than me. I have saved a few chaps I've cut in the past, but electronically. I like the idea of having a real folder to drop them in, and being able to browse through them later. Great advice, as always!
These are all great tips, Kim and I don't have to tell you what a struggle it has been to get back into the muse. To highlight your point on the importance of editing and saving cut scenes, this novel that I'm working on [for several years] has been a mill stone around my neck. I have pages and pages of cut scenes that I’ve saved over the years. Although I may not use them now in the exact way, they have sparked a few new ideas. The problem with this book are many of the things you've mentioned here; “…extra plot-lines/unnecessary characters or just bad writing…” The crazy thing is, I couldn’t see the problem. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I decided to rework a short story from 8,000 wds to 4,000 wds, that something snapped. Not that I didn’t understand the importance of ruthless edits before, but this time I really did shut my eyes and snip. So often, what we do the churn out a story is trial and error—what works today may not work tomorrow. The important thing is to keep at it!
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