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More on Writing

On Editing
by Brad Hyde

The First Cut is the Deepest

Stephen King, in his book On Writing, suggests cutting 20% from your first draft. Sound like a lot? Yes, but worth doing.

Highlight text, then go to “Tools” menu in Microsoft Word; choose “Word Count.”

Do your math: if 100 words, then reduce to 80.

Cutting Fiction

Take out your “fat.” Look for loose constructions. Can one verb replace two? Have you got “adjectivitis”? How about “adverbosis”? Pare things down to the subjects, the nouns and the actions.

Avoid the passive voice, unless necessary.

See if your story dialogue “telegraphs” ideas repeated later. Is some overly “telly”? Can the idea be communicated, instead, through action or setting?

Have you used good style or technique? Any Greek techniques, for example? Is metaphor fresh, like the green-leaved trees of Vancouver?

Cutting Feature Writing

How is your lede (the first paragraph or two)? Does it invite reading? Is it dry or boring?

The “nut graf,” the core idea paragraph, needs close inspection. Is it clear? Interesting? Your best quality sentences? This paragraph should be one of your best.

Straightforward, clearly phrased, sentences work best. Avoid overly “flowery” or complex sentence constructions. Be sure any transitions are clear, but avoid the mechanical (“firstly” and “secondly” can be annoying).

What’s Next?

Ideas jump out after cutting 20%. Move on to a critical examination of “what” you are saying. Does anyone care? Should they? Do you state the obvious or do you work for a fresh angle or approach to a topic?

Now, rewrite. Good luck.


(May 19, 2007)