Revise for Speed

The Writer’s Book of Wisdom

In the days before computers, a writer literally have to cut and paste. That’s what those commands on your PC refer to, kids, except that back then we used actual scissors and glue.

When we cut up a page and transferred the elements, an interesting thing happened: We learned to cut more than paste. And the resulting shorter copy read better.

An old formula says that the second draft should be 10 percent shorter than the first. The third draft 10 percent shorter than that. And the result equals? A net reduction of 19 percent?

As you revise, try to cut your manuscript by at least 10 percent—that alone should improve the pacing. If you find that for every scene you trim, there’s another you want to expand, ask yourself, “How does this further the plot?”

If it doesn’t, let it go.

Show me where you looked up for the page, and I will cut, with the ink-sharp razor of cole, revision, the offending line.
—R. James Morris

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