Post-Thanksgiving many of us are left with a heap of leftovers. We’re thankful for the abundance, but the ingredients don’t always add up to a successful meal . We may have too much cranberry sauce and too little turkey, for instance.
The same imbalance can be true of whatever we’re writing. There may be overkill on one aspect of the story and skimpiness on another. The skimpy is easier to deal with, for overkill may require “killing your darlings,” as Faulkner sagely advised.
Poet Colette Inez is often faced with this dilemma, since poems demands less rather than more. During one of her poetry workshops, which I was fortunate enough to be in, she confided that whenever she has to cut a line she particularly cherishes, she puts that typed line or lines into a special drawer in her desk. That way, she feels the words haven’t been lost, but are waiting for another poem where they might fit in better.
While I don’t have an actual drawer for my “leftovers,” I do find that I can use the episode that clutters a story somewhere else. In an early draft of my novel “Role Play,” the heroine found herself pregnant at a time when she was trying to build a career as an actress. She burst into tears when the doctor gave her the news. Trying to comfort her, he said ,“Lots of theatre folk have children.” When she demanded he name one example, the doctor came up with John Wayne! I tried the chapter out in my writing group and drew welcome laughter. Yet reading it aloud (an invaluable help!) made me recognize a hard truth – the episode got in the way of the action. Solution? Ruthlessly press the delete key!
That abandoned episode remained in my head and recently I added it in a short story where it’s a perfect fit – sort of like the prince finally finding the right gal for that glass slipper.
I once wanted to submit a story to a contest, only to discover it was 700 words too long for the strict guidelines. “I can’t cut any of this,” I cried to my computer. However, the contest was too inviting. Armed with the hard copy and a red pen, I set out to see what I could remove from my precious words. When I managed to do this, I was surprised to discover the story was stronger without the extra verbiage.
That Delete key can be our ally. Like me, you may find your story or chapter is better without the trimmings.
BOOKS: “Widow’s Walk” available through iUniverse.com; “Turning Toward Tomorrow” – Xlibris.com; “Ten Women of Valor” and “Role Play” –CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com. Also Amazon Kindle.