How Do You Know What to Cut?

You just finished that first novel, or at least you thought you did. Now the work really begins. You revise, revise, and revise again. At some point you may even consider hiring an editor, before you lose your mind. 

How do you know what to cut? You put a lot of thought into those words. They all sound good and provide information to help the reader follow what’s going on.

Cutting comes down to two things.

  1.  Is it essential to the story?
  2.  Does it move the story forward?

I love Jerry Jenkins. We all have our favorite bloggers and teachers of the craft. Jerry Jenkins is probably my favorite. Why? Because he’s clear, concise, and easy to follow.  I’m using an example from one of his blogs to help you understand editing. I would encourage you to visit his sight. You won’t be disappointed.

Paige’s phone chirped, telling her she had a call. She slid her bag off her shoulder, opened it, pulled out her cell, hit the Accept Call button and put it to her ear.       

“This is Paige,” she said.

“Hey, Paige.”

She recognized her fiancé’s voice. “Jim, darling! Hello!”

“Where are you, Babe?”

“Just got to the parking garage.”

“No more problems with the car then?”

“Oh, the guy at the gas station said he thinks it needs a wheel alignment.”

“Good. We still on for tonight?”

“Looking forward to it, Sweetie.”

“Did you hear about Alyson?”

“No, what about her?”



Here’s a good example of how that scene should be rendered:

Paige’s phone chirped. It was her fiancé, Jim, and he told her something about one of their best friends that made her forget where she was.

“Cancer?” she whispered, barely able to speak. “I didn’t even know Alyson was sick. Did you?”

We don’t need to be told that the chirp told her she had a call, that her phone is in her purse, that her purse is over her shoulder, that she has to open it to get her phone, push a button to take the call, identify herself to the caller, be informed who it is.  I think you’re getting the point.

This is a good example of dragging dialogue as well.  It’s not necessary and adds fluff without any real purpose. Don’t distract with minutia. Give the reader the adventure they signed up for when they chose to purchase your book. Take the reader with Paige when she says:

“I need to call her, Jim. I’ve got to cancel my meeting. And I don’t know about tonight…”

Something to think about.

-Jan R

How Do You Know What to Cut?

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