chop, chop

Today I did a decent rewrite of my story, including cutting out the entire first page. I’m trying to get as close to the action as possible, and to embed detail early.

I enjoy cutting material out of a story. I’m always irritated if my stories end up being thousands of words long, which unfortunately, many of them do. I’d prefer to have an excellent story told in under two thousands words, but that’s not always the way it can be. Sometimes the story demands more length.

Cutting is an interesting process. Often, you start by snipping prudently, and trying to add shape without losing detail or action. You can continue like that forever, as if your story is some kind of bonsai tree that can be turned into a Zen masterpiece by plucking a single leaf every couple of months.

When I’m being delicate with the shears I find it useful to get some distance from the story. There are details about characters, or locations, that I love, and don’t want to cut out, no matter how unnecessary it is to the plot, pacing or setting.

After some time away I discover the ruthless determination to start swinging the axe. I love destroying entire branches to discover it was strangling a more central and interesting structure.

It’s to know when to put down the axe, and take up the shears, or the paring knife, that’s the problem. Once I’m lobbing off material I tend to want to continue. But, there is some good stuff there, and not all of it needs to become a compost heap of dead letters.

I was happy with my pruning job this morning, and the slimmer lines of my story.

And then I looked at it this afternoon, and more lumps and scraggly bits appeared. I doubt I can remain completely happy with any of my pieces for long. I only see the defects.

I shall have to settle upon a final shape soon. I’m fed up of gardening.