the skipped parts

Most writers end up cutting material from one draft to another, or so I’m told. That’s true for me, anyway.

When writing a short story, it applies mostly to words and phrases. Sometimes an entire sentence. On very rare occasion, a whole paragraph will bite it. My first attempt at a novel has (so far) included scrapping a full 100 pages after the decision that one of my main characters needed to be about 7 years older for the story to really work. There was simply no way to adjust what I’d already written. I had to trash it and begin again.

Part of good writing is knowing what to include, what to alter, and what to leave out all together. Even when I’m writing a very short story (say, 500 words), there are elements of back story and exposition I know but don’t include. Sometimes that’s because they would be too much, making them skip-worthy, but just as often it’s because I believe good fiction feels lived in. At story should feel like it started long before I started telling it. The characters have a past that reaches back to a timeĀ before my tale and a future that will extend well beyond the end.

Of course, that may be a great deal more than Elmore Leonard meant. Maybe he was just saying, “Don’t be boring,” and to be sure, that’s sound advice, too.


About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

2 Responses to the skipped parts

  1. S. C. Green says:

    I still remember the first time I found out that people actually skip parts of books. I was appalled on two levels. One, because I couldn’t believe the audacity of a reader to skip what the author was trying to tell. And two, because I didn’t know I could do it, too.

    As far as cutting goes. I find the longer I write, the more I need to cut. When I first started this writing gig, I found I needed to add more to my prose. As the years progressed, it has flip-flopped. Knowing when and what to cut is still the hard part.

    Best of luck in your edits!


    • dex says:

      I’ve experienced the same thing. And I see much more easily now how eliminating the fluff can make your work stronger.

      I probably won’t get to the edits until Dec because I’m planning on doing NaNoWriMo. I’m excited about that!


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