Contrary to any and all writing rules, I have an occasional fondness for rambling, sometimes churning out prose a couple thousand words long, and, yes, even overusing nefarious adjectives and adverbs. So when it comes to cutting or doing serious edits to my longer work, often, I tremble.
Still, I’ve gotten better since my early days as a reporter, when I’d watch in awe as my copy chief would edit us all with a hatchet, stoically and objectively hacking things down to shape and size without batting an eye.
Which is why I like another former reporter’s manuscript-grooming advice below.
Here’s the latest from Promptly’s Top 20 Tips From WD in 2010 series
(the quote-worthy quips that branded themselves in my mind when we were
creating these magazines throughout the year). A regular prompt follows. Happy hacking!
No. 18: Cutting Catharsis
“You can spend lots of time rereading your manuscript and painfully strategizing what hunks to cut, but an excellent way to quickly trim it to size is to cut one word per sentence. This technique is pure magic. As a former newspaper reporter and editor, I got good at cutting excess verbiage early in my writing career. But every so often, for the heck of it, I challenge myself to cut one word per sentence. If I can do that too easily, I know I’ve gotten sloppy.”
—Elizabeth Sims, “10-Minute Fixes to 10 Common Plot Problems,” September 2010 (click here to check the issue out)
WRITING PROMPT: The Field of Dreams
Feel free to take the following prompt home or post a
response (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below.
By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our
occasional around-the-office swag drawings.
you’re having trouble with the
captcha code sticking, e-mail your piece and the prompt to me at
firstname.lastname@example.org, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll
make sure it gets up.
You have a strange dream—and then, as you arrive at work the next day, it seems as if elements from the dream are playing out in reality, scene by scene.