Friday, January 16, 2015

Cut and Waste

I would have to admit that it takes a long time for a writer to truly be able to become objective with his or her own work.  Or, at least, reasonably imitate a modicum of objectivity with his or her own work.  It's a very, very hard thing to do.  It's a very easy thing to teach (or to tell others to do), but it's a very, very hard thing to do to one's own words.

Well, maybe not all the time.  What I'm writing now, for instance... the very words you're reading... I know they can use some editing.  But I don't fucking care.  And, in that respect, I'm being objective AND apathetic.  Which is probably the pinnacle of being able to analyze one's own work.

Where was I?

Oh, yes... a glass of cheap Merlot.

No, wait... a Mason jar of cheap Merlot.

Wait... where the fuck did Merlot come from?  Ah, who gives a shit?  Might as well drink it.

Okay... NOW where was I?

Ah, yes... attempting objectivity with one's own work is a pain in the ass!  Let's just admit it.  There's a vanity with writers in which, for a while, they believe that their first draft (of whatever) is actually good.  Maybe not great, but definitely a righteous springboard to the soon-to-be deified greatness of their second draft.  During the period in which they believe this, they let friends and family read their crap and the belief is temporarily reinforced.  Until they let an actual fellow writer (or other qualified critic) take a look.

Balloon is popped.  What was once erect...

... is now flaccid and broken.

Face it.  The first draft sucks!  FACE IT!

The second draft probably isn't good, either.  The third might be crap.  The fourth might be slightly less smelly crap.  So on and so forth.

So the writer shelves the story.  The writer waits those agonizing days, weeks, years before daring to take a peek.  But peek, they do.  Which is when the realization hits.  THIS SHIT SUCKS!

With renewed vigor, mistakes are analyzed and the story's life begins anew.  The result is better, to be sure, and the writer once again thinks they've struck gold.  But, let's just admit it.  There's a vanity with writers in which, for a while, they believe that their first draft (of the new version) is actually good.  Maybe not great, but...

You get the idea.

Ultimately (hopefully), that true imitation of that modicum of objectivity finally sets in.  The real editing and rewriting begin.  Everything is analyzed and gauged for its worth.  Entire scenes down to individual lines of description and dialogue.  And, slowly... surely... it sinks in that of the 14 pages in that short story or short screenplay, only the last three have anything to do with what the story is about.  The rest is all waste.  Interchangeable setup that barely affects the conclusion, the moral of the tale.

So the writer cuts it.  Tosses it.  Shreds it.

(and promises to recycle it)
And then... just then... the damned story might be good.




  1. I'm sure you know the rough rule of thumb: anything written can be trimmed by 10%. That is - 10% of the words can be ditched by re-write, re-phrase, removal of fluff, and so on.

    After that, it is usually possible to trim another 10%. And after that, a third trim of 10% is sometimes possible too. This all helps the writing to become tight, concise.

  2. ROFLMAO - I'll NEVER call you Pencil Dick again. I have so many new phrases! Don't waste that shredded stuff, it's great for chicken and pigeon fanciers.

    1. When have you ever called me Pencil Dick?