12 January 2016

Cutting to the Bone - #Editing

How do you write your fiction? I currently write detailed, building tone and atmosphere in pastel layers to create a vibrant depth in which to seed information and incidents that echo other parts of the story as it builds to a series of harvest points.  

This doesn’t happen over a single page, or even a couple; it needs space. But what if there is only the single page? For an anthology submission I’ve been cutting a Horror short story – 2,750 words – down to 666. Trying to write “up” to 666 words I found beyond me. When I was teaching, my mantra was... if a story is to be cut by more than 25%, then it needs to be rewritten not edited

Did I follow my own advice? No. I excised, I trimmed, I amalgamated. It took seven passes to get within ten words of the target. Only on the eighth pass did I start rewriting, replacing word for word, to ensure that the atmosphere, the tension, the building dread necessary to the genre, was present in the quantities that would elicit the targeted reader reaction. 

Did it work? I’m told so, and I certainly feel that I’ve brought the story to fruition. But it was my third story, so I still believe that not every concept can be cut to the bone and survive intact. Would I like to take such a knife to my current detailed writing? Emphatically no. However, it’s a great exercise for opening a writer’s eyes and showing what is possible. Give it a go.

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