Writing Tip Wednesday: To delete or not to delete?

Welcome to this week’s Writing Tip Wednesday. Today I want to look at the editing part of writing a novel. I recently followed the blog ‘Writing Novels in Australia’ and I’ve found the posts so far to be really informative. Last week I read a great post I’d thought I’d share with you. It is called ‘Knowing A Good Novel Manuscript From A Bad One, by Phillipa Fioretti’
You can check it out here : http://writingnovelsinaustralia.com/2013/02/28/knowing-a-good-novel-manuscript-from-a-bad-one-by-phillipa-fioretti/

If you are just starting a novel or well into it, this post is really helpful and worth the look. Phillipa talks about being as scrupulous as you can when editing, and the importance of deleting when your working. She says to be ruthless and cut, cut and cut again. She says, to have a chance of getting through the publishing eye of the needle you have to pay attention, be rigorous in all matters structural while making it look elegant and natural, and learn to love your delete button. Most importantly you have to imagine a reader with a thousand other claims on their time, and set about structuring an intriguing story that will keep them where you want them – in bed with your book turning pages, eyes wide, biscuit halfway to their mouth and, in their mind, a fervent wish that the book will never end.

Editing is so important, publishers want your manuscript as polished as it can be. You need to edit, edit and then edit again. Edit till you can’t edit no more. Watch your adverbs, and the doubling up of words in a paragraph, and read your work out loud so you can hear if it sounds jilted or not. You may need to shuffle around chapters or cut the beginning and start a little further in. You need to do what you have to do to make your manuscript the best it can be, and sometimes that means deleting parts you love.

I find writing a manuscript involves a lot of Maths – you will find yourself adding and subtracting the whole way through, and hopefully in the end you have come up with the perfect equation.

Happy editing 🙂

And I’d love to hear how your editing is going, so drop me a comment.


11 thoughts on “Writing Tip Wednesday: To delete or not to delete?

  1. I like your tip about starting partway through and cutting out the beginning I’ve recently had to do this myself I found that the beginning just gave away too much and left too little suspense so I just snipped it out!

    1. I had to do it to recently too. I had to cut my first chapter and start a little later, even though I thought what I had written was written well, it wasn’t sitting right with me, too much info too early, so i went with my gut and cut it.

  2. I hate deleting parts I love – it’s like making a sacrifice. My editing is still going slowly, but your post reminds me why I have to take so much time to edit 🙂

    1. I hate deleting parts I love too and will sometimes put them in a separate folder for possible later use, but as writers it is part of our job to discern when something isn’t working and to cut it, even if it’s good.

      It is maddening when editing takes forever, but you don’t want to submit early just to be rejected.

      Good luck with the editing.

      1. Thank you. I do a check of how much I’ve edited after each session to drive me on – I’m 87% of the way there after last night 🙂

  3. Deleting is one of the hardest parts of editing! I usually keep a “graveyard” document on my computer where I put bits and pieces that I delete from my manuscript but can’t bear to delete completely out of existence. Sometimes it’s a good place to find ideas to use somewhere else!

  4. Excellent pointers! I have also heard, as a rule of thumb, the a final draft should be 10-15% less what the initial draft was. Stephen King cites something similar in his memoir On Writing. If it works for writers like him I’m definitely willing to give it a shot 🙂

    1. I did not know that. I’m the opposite – my first draft is the bare bones of a story and I add the flesh with each new draft. With the manuscript I just sent away it was 50% larger than my first draft. It did have a lot of deleting with the adding though.

      1. To be honest, with this novel (so far) I have been the same way (added a couple scenes and worked up between drafts one and two). Maybe that rule applies to the *finished* first draft (after a manuscript reaches its peak word count). But as you say, tightening is important too! Perhaps 10% will come away there.

      2. That makes sense. My manuscript is an epic fantasy so I had to make my second draft much bigger than the first. But when it did reach its peak I did cut a good 15% and it did make it better.

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