Trust Your Gut to Cut

In Classes, Craft, Musings, Publishing on July 12, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Here’s a tidbit from my six-week online course, Revise for Publication. Next session: August 16 through October 14. Get your manuscript in shape! Register:

Trust Your Gut to Cut

I like this mantra not only because it rhymes, but because it has so often proved true. Recently, in my novel, there was a phrase I loved to the point of obsession even though it seemed florid. The first comment I chalked up to personal opinion, cradling my words to my breast like infants. Yet reader after reader after reader lined it out every time saying it jarred them out of the fictional dream. Only after about 10 readers had done this, did I accept what I knew all along: It was over the top and needed to go.

Often you’ll have an inner knowing that something isn’t right, is too much, or just doesn’t fit, be it a sentence, a scene, or a character note that rings false. The problem is, you don’t really know how to fix it, so you ignore it. Then, either feedback rolls in, or in your own revision process you finally face facts: this should go. It may be hard to let go but trust your instincts. Those little niggling doubts about something not working are almost always right.

Revision is a little bit like emerging from a deep denial. And only when you truly embrace that a lot will have to go, in service of it becoming a better book,  does revision become fun. It happens, I swear.

To get support in the revision process, register for Revise for Publication: Before July 30, get a $30 discount. (Regular: $169. Early reg: $139).

  1. I went through this last night with the chapter I was working on. I spent half an hour (or more, I might be minimizing out of pride)trying to rework two paragraphs around ONE sentence because I was attached to the sentence. Finally, I had to just snip it out and tell myself I could use it later.

    I love the scissor insect picture!

  2. I don’t think the pain ever goes away, Alegra, but it comes with a much greater high after 🙂

    I know, I love that scissor spider, too 🙂 Some of us are revisionphobic, after all.

  3. Wise words. Revision is not only part of writing, it’s the majority of writing. It took me many years, many manuscripts and many notes from editors to realize this. For the longest time, I thought I was failing as a writer if someone asked me to rewrite something. (Or as Heinlein once famously quipped to Asimov, “Why didn’t you get it right the first time?”) Now I know it’s just part of the process.

    For an eye-opening take on this, I heartily recommend Elephant Bucks by Sheldon Bull, a book about writing for TV sitcoms. In TV-land, rewriting is a constant (and mostly last-minute) thing.

    Also, not for nothing, that is the scariest spider sculpture I’ve ever seen . . .

  4. Here I am nodding my head off. I keep an outtakes file so that if that niggling voice gets too insistent, I can whip the offending section out and just see how that feels. I always know if I’ve done the right thing.
    But best of all, the darling that has been snipped away can sometimes be inserted somewhere else, with real effect. I’ve frequently found that my treasured phrases or paragraphs were not so wrong, just in the wrong place. I’m tweeting this.

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