Cutting Remarks

by TheBloomingIdiot

The most important rule for any writer is this: cut anything that is not essential. Which brings me to an idea I have for the story of a writer whose entire process is devoted to this principle. After settling on an idea, this writer dashes out an uninhibited first-draft of several hundred thousand words. Then the process of shaping this lump of raw material begins: passages are cut, sections moved, words altered (and frequently changed back) until finally the result is a tighter, more cohesive second draft that is two-thirds or even one-half the size of the original. Then the writer whittles this down some more, focusing on the various pieces of the story and how they interact (like the parts of an engine). Once the pieces are all there the writer focuses on character, creating amalgamations where characters are repetitious, sometimes even removing a character altogether, until what was once the length of a novel or novella has become a short story. Then the underlying theme of the story begins to emerge. With this new focus in mind, the writer tries to serve the initial impulse that gave rise to the story by expressing the theme through vivid imagery and concentrated word-choice until what remains is a poem. Then that poem is further reduced to a single sentence as the writer states as clearly as possible — with utmost attention to the order of each word and phrase, the placement of each piece of punctuation. Then the writer removes the articles and prepositions from the sentence, then the adjectives and adverbs, until all that is left are a few verbs and nouns. From these the writer chooses the word that best captures the spirit of all that has come before, leaving only a single, solitary word. Finally, after long and careful deliberation, the writer picks up a pen and draws a line through that final word, crossing it out.

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