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Monday
Oct192009

A Writer's Best Friend?: The Delete Key

I'm often asked if being a magazine writer helped me evolve into a fiction writer, and as of late, I've given this question a lot of thought. Usually, when I answer, I highlight my ability to meet deadlines or my capability to turn a quippy phrase, but recently, I've realized that, in fact, my background has helped in a much bigger and better way. Namely, I know how to edit OR, at the very least, I take editing direction well and know how to apply it to the book to make it better.

What I mean by this is that I think nearly ALL books are better served when a writer includes more, not less. This was definitely the case with The One That I Want. Delete, delete, delete. I deleted SO MUCH SECONDARY crap - tiny bits of dialogue, incidental musings which when I wrote them probably sounded cute but really were just silly, anything ancillary that slowed the plot down. And now, in the thick of copy-edits, I'm STILL doing it. How many revisions have I done in which I've pared things down? Probably six. When in doubt, honestly, I hit delete. And then I reread the paragraph and if the meaning/context isn't affected, I know that the delete was a good thing.

Additionally, another leg up that I think magazine writers have - or at least has helped me - is learning to internalize constructive criticism without taking it personally. For the last two rounds of revisions, I had PAGES of notes from my editor. A gut reaction might have been to flip out. But a better reaction is to understand - again, at least for me - that words are just words and if she - as an expert - is telling me that there are better ways to shape them and put them on the page, then by God, I'm going to listen. There are some things that I fight for. In The One That I Want, I felt strongly that the book needed to end at a certain point when she had advised me otherwise. She listened to my argument and agreed. BUT, for 99% of the other stuff, I remembered that a book is a work in progress, and I'd be wise to consider her advice as to how to improve it, digest it, marinate it, and then go out and use the smart advice to my advantage. Editors, after all, are there for a reason, and I, for one, am grateful for them.

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