Monday, June 15, 2009

Rewrite or Remove

For years, I've been telling clients that "Writing is rewriting." Makes me sound like a reasonable, even-keel, professional writer, doesn't it?

Well, that temperament was put to the test recently when I received a few "notes" on my novel from my outstanding editor at Viking/Penguin, Liz Van Hoose.

Okay, I'll be honest: Seven pages of notes and suggestions.

After I picked myself up off the floor and read the notes carefully, I was struck by the number of "cut or revise" suggestions that reminded me of the internal debates I held while writing the book. My gut would tell me that a certain sentence, or entire scene, didn't quite work. I couldn't say exactly why, but it just didn't feel quite right. Still, I kept it, because I had so impressed myself with my own unique brilliance.

Wrong approach. If your gut is telling you that something sounds contrived, rewrite it or get rid of it. If something sounds out of character for one of your heroes, rewrite it or get rid of it. If the beginning is slow, rewrite it or get rid of it. If the ending is too Hollywood, rewrite it or get rid of it--unless you're writing for Hollywood, of course.

Not easy. But your work almost always benefits from the process.

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