The Editing Philosophy of “Removing One Thing”

One of the best pieces of fashion  advice I was ever given was ‘Remove one item before leaving the house’. This was excellent advice when preparing for a night out, particularity in the Eighties when excess was encouraged. It might have been a bangle, or a hair ornament, or even a waistcoat, but whatever I took off wasn’t essential to the outfit. Sometimes I had to carefully consider what to take off, which often made me reconsider my outfit. To this day, I still tend to try to limit my outfits to just the essentials (unless I’m cosplaying).

Too much going on to appreciate the lovely details.

This rule can also be applied to the editing process, particularly if you tend to overwrite rather than underwrite. I am an overwriter most of the time, though sometimes I underwrite and need to embroider. I am not as much of an overwriter as Stephen King. Most of the time, what I really need to do is remove one thing.  It might be too many descriptive words (my weakness), a paragraph that breaks the rhythm of the scene, or even a whole chapter that is now out-of-place as the story has changed and progressed. I can usually find something to discard that will make the story cleaner and more lyrical.

This process makes me think about what is absolutely essential to the telling of the story. What can’t I take out? Some things are just necessary for a story to exist: plot, setting, characterization. There are foundations to any narrative that can’t be removed without the whole structure tumbling down: foreshadowing, action, dialogue, and so forth.  What is vital? What can be discarded?

1 Comment

Filed under Editing, Steampunk, Steampunk Genre, Uncategorized, writing, Writing Style

One response to “The Editing Philosophy of “Removing One Thing”

  1. Pingback: The Editing Philosophy of “Removing One Thing” | On The Write Path

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