Chopping Words To Make It Work #IWSG

I had to cut some of my darlings this past week. Last month, I said I wanted to take out an earthquake. I dragged my feet on it. If I took out the first earthquake, then I needed to find some other way to separate my character from the rest of his group. As I ran through scenarios in my mind, I came to the most likely cause being a backlash of the character’s power. Plus I’m a fan of characters creating their own mess, so it fits how I do things. Problem is, there’s a good chunk of information between when he uses his power and when he’s separated from his group. I could no longer fit it in without dragging down the series of events.

And so, I cut it. Normally I’m good at chopping out chunks of writing. I just slide it away into my “UNUSED” file and keep on going. Some of it will make it to later in the story, but other tidbits just won’t fit anywhere else because of timing. And I have to admit, I’m kind of sad. I like my little dialogue exchange and the teasing. But I can’t fit it in before the event, and it won’t work after.

I suppose I’m not really insecure this month. I succeeded in removing that first earthquake. But gosh darn it, I wonder if it was worth it now. We’ll see when I finish.

IWSG Question of the Month: What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

With reading: characters who wallow in their self-pity rather than take action to fix their issue. Sure it’s a character growth thing, but spend too long on it, and I’ll likely chuck a book across the room.

Writing/Edit: I don’t have an pet peeves that affect my own writing, at least not that I’ve noticed. I do see stuff that I suggest changes on when critiquing though: filtering, unnecessary dialogue tags, really long sentence fragments that don’t create a mental connection to the previous sentence, past progressive verbs, and using “was” for description. But are they pet peeves? Hmm.

Have you ever been sad after killing your darlings? What are your pet peeves?

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Loni Townsend

About Loni Townsend

Wife. Mother. Writer. Ninja. Squirrel.

31 thoughts on “Chopping Words To Make It Work #IWSG

  1. I usually don’t like characters who wallow in self-pity either unless that’s somehow the gist of the story and an author pulls it off well. But I don’t like to spend time with people in real life who wallow in self-pity. I’ve got my own problems and would rather be lifted by optimism than be dragged down into negativity.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

  2. I’ve never had to cut a huge chunk. It would terrify me.
    No wallering here!

  3. Hi,
    I do the same thing when I chop out a lot of scenes or dialogue. I save them in a journal on my iMac. And yes, it does hurt sometime because I fall in love with the dialogue but know in my heart it just doesn’t melt together.
    Hope you find peace about what you had to cut.
    All the best.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Patricia at Everything Must Change

  4. When writing, I usually have to add words to my novel drafts but cut chunks for the short stories and flash fiction. Go figure! πŸ™‚

  5. I cut over 20k out of my first novel years ago before I shelved it. It didn’t hurt too much I guess because I considered a lot of it warming up after not giving fiction a shot for a long while. As an editor, I find it hard to read for enjoyment. I have LOTS of reading pet peeves. Shoddy language and proofreading errors turn me off immediately, whereas some readers can overlook that if the story is decent. Another really huge pet peeve is filler. So many stories have so much filler! If I find myself asking what in the world a passage or scene is doing to advance the plot more than a few times, I get frustrated and reach my quitting point, and I’ve grown a lot better at quitting books over the years.

  6. Poor ol’ earthquake. πŸ™ But good on ya for doing what needed to be done. πŸ™‚

  7. Not had to cut huge chunks yet. The thought is terrifying.
    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

  8. It’s hard to cut off parts of your story, even when it doesn’t fit into the overall scheme of the plot. Maybe you can re-use the cut pieces later, in a short story or another novel. Sometimes, with minor alterations, such shuffling works surprisingly well.

  9. Save that scene as an “outtake” for your newsletter readers. Or somewhere else in the promo for this book when it’s released. There’ll be some place you can use it.

  10. I don’t mind the cutting so much. It’s irritating because it feels like wasted time, but so be it. It’s a necessary evil.

  11. I think I’ve gotten better at cutting things over time. I used to drag my feet, especially if there were good lines, or even if it was written well but just wasn’t fitting the story anymore. Now it doesn’t bother me as much to cut things because I know it’s for the best.
    I probably (definitely) use “was” too much! But I try to go back and edit them out later on.

  12. I’m not sure I know what a past progressive verb it. I think I better look that up πŸ™‚

  13. See, those are the scenes you keep as bonus content for your newsletter readers. =)

    I read a book the other day where the main character was wallowing and wallowing and wallowing. Yeah. I ended up putting the book down.

  14. God, yes. Killing your darlings is brutal. And removing scenes that you LOVE because they don’t work is also quite depressing. But hey, if it’s better for the story overall, then you got to do it!

  15. I chopped over 30,000 words out of the second book in my series. Sad to see it go but if it didn’t move the story forward, it had to.

  16. My “unused” file ( I call it “save for Later”) is HUGE. Sometimes it’s more words than the finished novel, so I feel your pain!

  17. I struggling with what I need to cut on my current chapter too. It’s not like the words are darlings or anything. I just can’t figure out which parts belong and which don’t. My submission is due to my crit group by tomorrow evening. Hmmm…. I don’t think I’m going to make it.

    Oh yeah, I’m trying to keep my protagonist proactive. Every time I don’t, my crit partners yell at me.

  18. Those are interesting thoughts. I guess sometimes you have to do what you have to do. Greetings!

  19. I do love strong characters–right or wrong. If they take charge and go barreling in, lose, make a fool out of themselves, or win, it’s all the same to me. Entertainment. πŸ™‚

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  20. I always love it when I save something I’ve cut, and then find a way to use bits & pieces of it in different places. But you’re right, it doesn’t always work out, and that stinks. =(

  21. I do get sad when I have to kill my darlings. Especially dialogue. I’m a huge fan of dialogue, but sometimes I write too much of it!

  22. Heck, I dislike real life characters who wallow in self pity. LOL!

  23. I have a file of ‘cut darlings’ that were painful to root out. However, I’ve never had an urge to put them back. But that may be because something takes root in the newly churned up page.

  24. I have had to cut out huge chunks. Like you, I save them to a “deleted” file. Sometimes I can later reuse all or parts of the deleted scenes, other times I’ll reread it and think “why did I cry over this?”

  25. When it comes to trad pub books, especially the Big Five, my expectations are high and I’m annoyed by unnecessary typos and grammar errors. Not fair, I suppose. But I always imagine that these books have big budgets in place, and top notch editors working on the manuscripts…am I right?
    Okay, maybe the ‘big budget’ is a misconception on my part…

  26. I agree with the previous poster who mentioned disliking people who wallow in real life!! I couldn’t take it in a book. πŸ˜€

    I had to cut a chunk from my current WIP and I’m not sure how it’s going to go but I realized I just hated it so much it had to go LOL. We’ll see how the revisions go now.

  27. I definitely hear you on having to cut something that you really, really want to keep. I’ve had to do that with a lot of different stories, I don’t know that I could pick just one. >_< Hopefully your book comes out the better for it, though – maybe it'll go really well and you'll come up with something that never would have happened if you'd left that earthquake in.

  28. I used to pride myself on being a ruthless darling killer, but recently my characters killed one for me and I mourned for days. XD

  29. When I have to cut huge chunks that drag things down but were fun, I tend to post them in a blog so they are not “lost” just not in the road in the story πŸ˜‰

  30. I usually have to add instead of cut things from my manuscripts. Heh. But if you really love a darling, then put it up somewhere for fans to read. Those type of deleted scenes can be fun. πŸ™‚

  31. I like Crystal’s idea to keep them as bonuses for a newsletter (or email list). This sounds harsh and I’ve never had to do it but, then again, my writing is sparse to begin with. I’m usually struggling to add words. πŸ˜‰ Love this: “I’m a fan of characters creating their own mess…” So am I.

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