A novelist writes two stories, one for himself, and one for his readers. The story he writes for himself can be as long and as loose and as saturated with details as his time and disposition allows him to make it. But the one he writes for his readers needs to be concise, compact, and sprinkled only with the significant details.
It’s hard to cut words you’ve written with love, especially when they are not that bad. It’s easier to raise your children than it is to kill them, hence overpopulation. But it’s necessary. Cutting the words I mean.
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Oliver Colors’ biography reached 128,000 words at one point. Now it’s only 87,500 words and it’s shrinking. It will likely end up under 80,000 words. And after I will send it to an editor it will probably end up under 75,000 words.
At first it was hard backspacing even adjectives. But once I got in the habit of doing it I came to enjoy cutting phrases, sentences, paragraphs, even whole chapters. Now each time I cut something I feel I reinforce the words that remain. The mason, after he finishes the building, removes the scaffolding…
I cut the parts that are the least genuine, the ones written with the least enthusiasm, or in haste. And also those that just came out of the blue and settled on the page.
The secret of being a bore is to tell everything. – Voltaire
The camelopardic crocophant is a good example. Somehow the ponderous creature found its way into Oliver Colors’ biography, and it refused to leave. But my editing pen has a prickly point, and I have poked with it at the beast until it went away. And then I sighed relieved. A moonbeamed painter might be a capital idea, but a camelopardic crocophant is just a literary disaster…
Do you enjoy editing your writing?