I’ve been revising a novelette recently (the longest work I’ve written [well…except for the novel]) and I came to a conclusion about cutting words. Usually I’ll be going through a work for the tenth or eleventh time and I’ll suddenly realize that an entire scene, or an entire exchange, can easily be dispensed with. This is quite vexing.
This time I purposefully decided to go through and cut two thousand words. But every time I came to a cuttable part, I generated a plethora of reasons not to cut it. So I decided to cut everything I thought was even a little bit cuttable, and then see whether I wanted to put it back in the next pass. It’s a good shortcut. It fools the part of the brain that is unimaginative, and can only imagine the story the way it currently is. But the way it currently is is not the best way. I remember writing the story. When I began it, I did not know how it would end, and I added in all kinds of little hooks that I hoped would lead to an ending. Sometimes it is hard to remember that.
That’s probably my biggest problem with stories. Once I finish them, I forget that they could have been any other way. I forget that the decision of what to put in was kind of arbitrary and almost unconscious, and that, if I asked it to, my unconscious could probably supply something entirely different to occupy every major and minor point in the story, from the largest plot-point to the littlest noun. I sometimes think that it is wrong of me to put my stories aside for a few months before revising them. When I finish a story, I should immediately go back to the beginning and start rewriting it before the clay has hardened.