“Trim fat, add muscle.”

Muse at 11, Writing

This is something for you to kind of have an eye out for during the writing process (but don’t do anything about it–because you’re writing, remember?).  But when it comes time for you to actively edit your piece remember this:  SKIP THE BORING PARTS.

I just read two books: Bruce Coville’s My Teacher is an Alien

vs and

Richard Paul Evans’ Michael Vey: Prisoner of Cell 25.

Both have interesting premises (Coville’s is Exactly What It Says on the Tin; Evans’ is about a boy with electrical powers), and deal with kids taking on forces way bigger than them.

But here’s the thing: Coville’s book is only 128 pages.  But every scene that has to be there, is there (with exception of one–when a shy bookworm suddenly starts showing his smarts in class; that’s summarized, and I’d bet if Mr. Coville did it today, he’d write that scene out so we can see it), and there is nothing…well, there are extraneous-sounding things, but all of it’s entertaining, and in the end, relevant in some way or another.  The scenario is played out to the fullest degree.  The high notes were hit, the dull parts summarized, and the book became memorable.  All in 128 pages.  The story, in other words, is so tight it could float.

In contrast, I’m thinking the first section of of Evans’ 326-page novel plods.  In the first hundred pages or so (remember, in that amount of time, Coville’s written an entire story) I have to sit through the presentation of the following:

  1. Michael is an average dude.
  2. Michael is short.
  3. Michael has problems at school.
  4. Michael deals with bullies at school.
  5. Michael’s Mom has single-mom problems.
  6. Michael likes a girl who doesn’t know he exists.
  7. Michael may have a mysterious past.
  8. Oh, yeah, Michael has a mysterious power.

None of these things are exactly irrelevant, but do we need to spend 100 pages on these mundanities?  Especially when there’s kids with superpowers and conspiracy theories and bad guys about?

All of these things be written about in an interesting manner; the trick is to “trim fat, add muscle” (as my writer friend Linsey told me once).

If it sits there, it’s not getting you to the good part, and you should consider cutting it.  If it’s moving the story forward or adding flavor, keep it!

When you’re in editing, take note of anything that you, personally, are skimming over.  It might be a clue that it needs to be cut, summarized, or rewritten.

It is a crime to bore your audience.


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