Further to the recent post about jargon, I want to suggest a solution for writers who suspect they have too much verbiage in their first draft, but don’t know what to do about it.
Maybe you’ve noticed it yourself as you read a section over, but more likely one of your critiquers noticed it, and pointed it out as unnecessarily long or boring, or both. You read the wordy section again and try to find all kinds of excuses for keeping it as it is. Maybe you even realize that it is a bit repetitious or unnecessarily dull, but you like the anecdote it relates (even if it is long and wordy). You simply don’t want to let it go.
Does keeping it move the story along?
Does it provide some essential information the reader needs to know?
Does it increase the reader’s empathy for a character?
Does it foreshadow a possible crisis?
Does it increase the tension by dropping a worrisome clue of something that may interfere with the hoped for solution?
If the paragraph does none of the above, ask yourself, “Do I really need this? Will the story suffer if I remove it?” If the section is not critical to the story, and others have mentioned that it drags the story down, perhaps you should consider making some changes.
I think I have a solution.
A friend in a critiquing group suggested that in a case like this it is good to make a folder on your computer where you can save this precious writing that you have such a hard time giving up. Call it “Clipping Gallery” (or some other name that you will quickly associate with this editing gimmick). Then copy and cut the wordy section out of your “work in progress” (WIP). Paste this wordy section into a Word file and save it to your Clipping Gallery. You may want to have sub-folders if you have several works in progress.
Now that the questionable writing is saved in a file where you can always retrieve it and put it back into your WIP, you can relax. Your precious writing is not lost and you can change your mind any time and go back to the original version of your WIP.
I’ve agonized over losing all that perfect writing I did. Maybe I had some special turns of phrase that came out exactly as I wanted, and I simply did not want to let go of them. So what if they were a bit wearisome to the reader?
But once I cut those wordy sections and put them in my clipping gallery, where I could retrieve them any time I wanted, I felt better. The hard work that some others found boring, but I was so attached to, would be safe and available to me any time I wanted it. And, surprise, surprise, the WIP worked just fine without the parts I had removed. I just had to be sure the transitioning was in place where I had removed sections.
Many times, I’ve put sections of my writing into the clipping gallery. Do you know how many times I’ve taken something out of the gallery and put it back into the WIP?
But it’s still there if I want it.
After a while, when I come to my senses, I realize I really don’t want or need the removed part anymore and I’m okay with it.