Critical Cuts (on writing)

After my last post, I sat down and had a mind-blowing writing day. I added 1,500 new words to my short story "Asleep, Awake." Which is good, because I cut about 500. Not a bad net gain. In the 2004 edition of the Novel & Short Story Writer's Market, there's an interview with Alice Sebold, author of the memoir Lucky and the wonderful novel The Lovely Bones. She says: "You have to be ready, willing and able to cut things as soon as you sense they're going in a bad direction. You have an inner critic who knows when something is going off."

"I fall in love with something [in my writing] and I think that cutting it will be like
cutting the leg off a table."

That's always been hard for me, especially with short stories and essays. I fall in love with something and I think that cutting it will be like cutting the leg off a table. It's usually the beginning of a story, or the part that contains the word, the phrase, or the idea that sparked the writing in the first place. Even as I begin to see that it no longer works with the rest of the piece, I imagine that it is an integral part of the whole and that if I cut it out the writing will be all wobbly and weak. But the truth is that making the critical cut is like sanding off a layer of wood to better reveal the grain beneath.

You know what? I just cut two paragraphs out of this post. My inner critic told me they were going off in a bad direction. You want to speak to her about that? Click on the word "comments," below. If you want to spam your friends with links to this post, click on the little envelope. Oh, they'll love you for it. I promise.


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