It’s the most simultaneously painful and necessary thing you’ll ever have to do, whether you’re a writer, a film editor, or a person who believes in auto-surgery.
(“auto” referring to “self”, not “automatic”)
It’s what I have been doing since Friday. I’ve learned that Mr. King’s sagely advice of “Draft 2 = Draft 1 – 10%” is much, much harder than it sounds – I’m not sure if it’s because Mr. King is a verbose first-draft writer, or I’m just being an egocentric little scribbler who needs to kill his darlings.
From an excerpt from Johann’s Fantastic Adventures Through Time and a short story I wrote early in January to the steampunk story involving coffee-delivering zeppelins and a hilarious play concerning an elephant in the room, I edited them all. Along the way, I have lost sleep, cancelled appointments, walked out of meetings because they were wasting my time, killed trees, spilled ink, attended class, and I have come out the other side.
(not really. There are still 2 incomplete submissions, 1 due in 10 hours’ time, and another in 34 hours’ time; but, as always, sleep comes first)
I find, though, that the longer a story is, the easier it is to find materials to cut. From both the excerpt from Johann’s Fantastic Adventures Through Time (9.6k words) and the steampunk story (10k words), I have managed to cut the mandatory 10% that Mr. King requires of me; but from the short stories (2.4k words and 4.9k words), I have shaved off like 7 or 8 percent before throwing in the towel and concluding that if I cut anymore, it would be the literary equivalent of an amputation.
(“Literary Amputation” should be a thing)
It’s the same thing with humans, I guess. The bigger you are, the easier it is to take away 10% of you. Heck, some corporations make good living by promising to take away 50% of you. But the leaner, thinner, shorter you are, the more difficult and closer to amputation it is to cut you down any further. I would say that the same thing could be said for our egos, but I think I’ll revise that and say we should just amputate our egos off and lump it in with the 10%.
But here’s the thing about cutting, even if you don’t hit 10%: just by trying, you are already making it better. In my quest for the elusive 10% cut, I have spotted more redundant words than my egocentric little scribbler’s heart would dare to recognize, and I have mercilessly cut them down.
Some of them have evaded my gaze and are still in hiding; but I bet with more time, I would be able to weed them out one by one.
I’ll say that I’m proud of what I’ve done. And with (most of) the submissions out of the way, the waiting game begins, and I’ll be doubling back to my email inbox multiple times daily to see who liked me enough to pass me on for publication.
In the meantime, there’s a couple more call for submissions due in August. I already have a few ideas floating about for them.
But before any of that… sleep.