Writing Advice: Kill Your Babies

If you are a writer, then may feel like you are pregnant with words. You give birth to a few pages and admire the cute alliterations, the detail you put into your character’s backstory, the rich setting filled with happy trees and so on. You could leave the work as is, but if you want to take your writing seriously, then you must be ruthless. Don’t be afraid to kill your babies.

I know, it’s scary at first. You put a lot of time and effort into writing and you might believe your work is spotless. However, the painful truth is that no one gets it right the first time. Real writing is a process and most of the time you will be deleting all the purple prose, info dumps, and meandering subplots that do nothing but waste the reader’s time.

From Strunk & White’s Elements of Style: “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts (23).”

An editor can help take the sting away from the painful process of self-editing. It’s like hiring a hitman to do the dirty work for you, where they take those unnecessary words on a car ride out into the country and make them disappear (Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.). Editors are not perfect, though. Sometimes they might miss some words that escape detection. That is why the author must be unafraid to hunt down those words, drag them kicking and screaming into the dark, and then eviscerate them. Happy writing and don’t forget to wash the blood off your manuscript!

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