Decluttering is something all of us do in our lives at some point or another. Every so often, it’s necessary, not just around our homes, but also in our writing, and I know how hard that is.
The first step of downsizing is decluttering. Clutter is an enormous issue if you ask me because clutter is often the main reason we need to downsize. In my experience, clutter is why we don’t have room for everything in our homes, and clutter is the reason our manuscripts are so long.
For me, I once wrote a manuscript that was over one and thirty thousand words, which, for a romance is way over the top. And trimming the fat wasn’t easy. I had a hard time deciding what wasn’t important, and what was. It took more time to cut that thing down to acceptable size than it did to write it, which should tell you how hard of a job it was.
Though I did learn a lot from that experience and I thought I’d share some of that with you.
The first thing I learned about was not telling my readers things I’ve already shown or are about to show. Seems like a no-brainer since we’re told all the time to show not tell, but well I found that I tended to paraphrase things that I then showed. Most often when I was trying to avoid using a tag, but I now know this isn’t just telling, it’s redundant and condescending, and, when I’m on the receiving end of that kind of writing — extremely irritating.
In other terms, stating the obvious is something we should never do. So we should never say someone interrupted or was the first to mention something when we’ve already shown these things with the dialogue. Yeah, that isn’t easy to remember when we’re writing the piece in the first place since we’re not thinking about style as much was we’re thinking about content. But we have to cut this drivel out of our manuscripts as soon we start editing because it just excess padding.
I can also see, when the piece is long enough, where a writer might think it is necessary to reiterate or paraphrase things that took place earlier in the story, possibly thinking the reader either forgot or didn’t catch the significance of what happened. The problem with this tactic is that it is condescending, as Browne and King say in chapter nine of their book Self-Editing For Fiction Writers titled Once is Usually Enough.
And yeah, they’re right; it’s really off putting when a writer does this to a reader.
Happy writing everyone. J