The Page a Day Writers Group

Cut It Out

Posted on: August 30, 2011

I’m growing as a writer. How do I know? Because I’m able to delete entire sentences, paragraphs — even scenes — from my first draft without so much as a whimper.

Some of you are nodding–You’ve reached this milestone.

I sympathize with those who have grabbed your keyboard and are clutching it to your bosom in denial. The thought of cutting any of the perfect prose you painstakingly produced makes your palms sweat.

I fought the “kill your darlings” mantra, too.

I fought the “kill your darlings” mantra, too. The words I’d strung together were lyrical, powerful, emotional. Epic in every sense of the word. But they didn’t’ do a dang thing to move my story forward–and that’s the name of the game.

I warmed slowly to the idea of culling my scenes. I wasn’t happy about deleting sentences, paragraphs and characters the story didn’t need. I’m over it now. Now it’s fun to weed out large, unnecessary chucks as well as small words that muck up the engine of a powerful scene.

If you’re ready to do some cutting, but don’t know where to begin, I suggest starting small. Click on Find from the Word menu and search any of the words listed below. Often, they are needless, unexciting and wearisome. You might be surprised at how much your story improves by deleting a few.

If you have a favorite unnecessary word, add it to the list and help your fellow writers.

as

but

could

even

feel

fine

just

might

must

quite

really

shall

should

so

that

there was

used to

very

was

well

will

would

–Claire Yezbak Fadden

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4 Responses to "Cut It Out"

Man…that list looks familiar!

The only things that I’d add are: he/she noticed, or he/she saw. If you’re writing in that person’s POV, you should’nt have to use either of those phrases because the reader should know who he/she is and what they see. For example: He noticed the tears traveling down her cheek. Instead you’d write – The tears traveled down her cheek.

I’m adding — suddenly.

My problem with my writing is that once the words are down on a page, I find it very hard to change more than a sentence or, yes, delete a word here and there. I wish I was adept at rewriting mercilessly. Any advice?

Lauren, we all feel that way. But as every one of my writing mentors has told me — you have to be able to delete unnecessary prose. Hang in there. It will come and when it does, you’ll be surprised at the positive results.

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The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!

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