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.

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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!

    Like

    • 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!

      Like

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