Category Archives: editing novels

>The Follies of Excessive Editing

>Do you ever get out of control when you edit or revise? I get so excited about revisions sometimes that I can turn into an editing fanatic and cut things that don’t deserve it. Then I end up either writing new material to flesh out what’s left after the massacre or put old material back in.

I think part of my problem is I read a lot about what to chop from a novel but not so much about what to leave in. A story is more than bones; it’s muscles and skin and freckles. So if you chop, chop, chop until all you have is the skeleton, it’s not going to be a very exciting read (or long one). There needs to be a balance. Just because details or information aren’t necessary from a plot perspective does not always mean they should go. Books are only interesting if you have enough time and details to know the people involved in the story too. And that takes words.

I’ve talked about cutting extraneous information from novels, which is also necessary. But you can go to the other extreme too. And I have. So I really believe there needs to be a balance. Don’t write a novel full of pointless scenes or dialogue, but don’t cut out everything just because it’s not related to the main thrust of the story. I’ve decided this is an art in itself and one that I’m still learning.

How do you decide what to leave in and what to edit? Do you ever get a little cuckoo and cut too much?