It has never been my way to set specific goals for myself. Exceptions include trying to arrive at work on time every morning and exercising daily. More recently, I set a goal to type seven thousand new words every week. They could include anything creative, even a blog post, as long as the endeavor was fresh. This went on quite swimmingly for a solid, rewarding month.
Then, rewrites were needed. In no time at all, I found trimming did more to enhance my storytelling than most new additions. This echoes what Josip Novakovich describes in his “Fiction Writer’s Workshop” chapter on revising. While some authors must add to polish their story, I’m proving to be what Novakovich calls a “taker-outer”. I’m still amazed by how much a clumsy scene improved by being cut down from over 1,100 words to less than half that.
With that thought in mind, I’m compelled to share something I recently learned about the legendary H. P. Lovecraft. While he created an astonishing and enduring mythos, and his iconic Cthulhu is more popular today than ever, his writings aren’t particularly known for their quality. In his defense, I offer one plausible explanation: all the while this relatively unknown man brought his night terrors to life on the pages of pulp fiction magazines, Lovecraft earned his payment by word count. Simply put, the more verbose contributions earned him larger paychecks!
While I have yet to seek payment for anything I’ve written, I continue to learn at every turn. One thing I know is that advice from friends helps tremendously. And while it’s difficult sometimes to remove anything from a manuscript, I feel better knowing that for everything removed, my tale is that much better. Granted, some scraps are also saved in case I find a use for them later. Either way, writing even excised material still teaches something useful. Now let’s see what needs trimmed next…