Extreme Editing

A couple of months ago I posted a piece about recycling. Unfinished bits of writing set aside, that is, or work that I had no particular target or market for. Recently I came across a competition for a short story of up to 2,500 words. I had the ideal one that I had written a year or so before.  Unfortunately, it was almost 5,000 words long. I therefore had the choice of either rewriting from scratch or editing the original piece to half the size. I decided on the latter course of action. The perceived wisdom and advice in the ‘How To Write…’ type of books state that, certainly in terms of novel writing, that after the first draft the writer should edit out a third of the manuscript. For me, that has always seemed far too drastic.  All that writing to be struck out. Really? The phrase, I believe, is ‘kill your darlings’ or something like that, meaning you just have to be ruthless in rejecting a lot of what has probably taken hours to create.  Much as I disliked the notion, I applied the principle to my story. I was quite surprised at how much superfluous narrative was included in the original draft and dispensed with 1,000 words quite easily. It was the remaining 1,500 that was difficult.  Nevertheless, I got it down to 2,496 words, but I just wonder how much has been lost. The same characters travel through the same plot lines, but I just wonder how much ‘colour’, if I can put it that way, has been lost. Time will tell. At least I met the deadline for submissions.  Quite the opposite to writer’s block, speaking of which I used that as the title for a poetry ‘triolet’* competition for which I was short-listed.

Writer’s Block

It looks like I have writer’s block.

No words appear across this page.

I’m deafened by the ticking clock.

It looks like I have writer’s block.

And there is nothing to unlock

This feeling, even though I rage.

It looks like I have writer’s block.

No words appear across this page.

*A triolet (/ˈtraɪ.əlᵻt/ or US /ˌtriː.əˈleɪ/) is a stanza poem of eight lines. Its rhyme scheme is ABaAabAB and often all lines are in iambic tetrameter: the first, fourth and seventh lines are identical, as are the second and final lines, thereby making the initial and final couplets identical as well.

 

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