Cutting Pages when Necessary
I've seen people talk about this lately and know from experience how difficult it can be so. I figured, why not talk about it?
After all, I have had a time when I had to cut almost one hundred pages once because it was just all fluff and no substance. So, believe me, I know what it's like.
As a writer, you've probably encountered this yourself, and as a reader, there have probably been books you've read where you wished sections were cut that felt like a slog to get through.
Why is that? Why is it that we cut all our hard work sometimes easily sometimes not as much? How do we recognize when it needs to be cut?
One easy way, and something I will always recommend is to have a beta reader or editor look over your story. Sometimes they will even catch where you start going into fluff before you get too far, which can be a time and sometimes life saver.
Then, there are other ways.
For me, when I was working on the second run through of one of my stories, there was a part which was supposed to be the 'final confrontation' with a character, but something just felt off about it. Instinct was telling me there was something wrong with the whole exchange and my editor confirmed it.
So, why am I bringing this up? To talk about the all important ability a lot of authors and readers have.
Instinct isn't often talked about and quite often looked down on by writers when it really shouldn't be. It's often times a beneficial, if critical, friend at the back of your mind. As a writer, and even as a reader, when we write and read a lot, we subconsciously learn what is good and what is bad. Our instinct allows us to pinpoint when something seems off or even wrong because of that.
So, I brought up my feeling to my editor and, upon meeting, we both realized why that feeling was there. While the information in the section was critical for furthering the story... the means behind it happening was nonsensical.
To give a frame of reference, two sets of characters were looking for another set of characters, while also being told of a dangerous person that they would have to get rid of. Their main priority was to find the other characters and, once they did, there was really no firm reason for them to stay. Getting rid of the dangerous person wasn't their job, it was a side thing they COULD do.
In the original version of the story, they are found by a henchmen of the dangerous person and follow them to talk and have a major confrontation.
I think you can all see the problem at this point with what I laid out. Their was no reason for the characters to follow this henchmen. Their motivation was to get the heck out of there, not to fight some person they barely knew anything about.
And yet, because of all the important information in the section, I found it difficult to get rid of. How was I supposed to give this information if I had to cut the scene? Wasn't there a way to keep the scene in? All these thoughts ran through my head before I finally figured out a way to fix it.
Of course, I know for a fact that many other authors have had to struggle with this as well, probably even recently. I'm not the only writer whose found this sort of thing difficult.
So, like I said earlier, how do we deal with cutting a section which seems so important?
Spread out the information.
Let me clarify this a bit. In the section I cut, I compiled all the information that was desperately important, and all the information that could be slowly revealed later.
This created two categories, one which I could slowly disseminate information over time and utilize what the characters see and experience as foreshadowing. The other was information that NEEDED to be said. Once I split that, it was easier to cut the pages and figure out how to hand that information out without breaking the tension of the story.
In regards to that second option, I decided what was most important and focused on those three or four things throughout the rest of the story.
Thankfully, I already had plans of the characters meeting the dangerous person for a third time as they were on the verge of leaving the island and, I found, that it was fitting to move some of the information there.
Once I knew where the important information was going and what information wasn't necessary in the moment, it was easier to cut the section and smooth it out with the rest of the story.
And, to prove that my instinct was right, the story flowed much better after the cuts were made. Even the final meet up, which just seemed tacked on originally, had more power and oomph now that much of the information was moved later, to the climax of the story.
So, when you find yourself having to cut sections of your story, but know that the section is filled with important information, prioritize what needs to be said in that book and what can be held off until a later one. Once you've done that, take the things you want to keep and sprinkle the important things later in the book you are working on. This also works to deal with monologues or even just backstory. Who knows, splitting up the information, or even moving it, can actually help the flow of the story and give you more bang for your buck.
As for readers, while we might dream of reading that story without the slogging portions, now we know why those portions exist and that it's not always easy for a writer to get rid of them. But, get rid of them we must.
So, writers and readers, when were times you've found a section that needed to be cut and struggled to deal with it? Writers, how have you dealt with cutting portions that seem incredibly important?
I would love to hear your stories.
If you were wondering, the story I talked about was for the second book in my Requiem of Stone series, Demon's Call.
You can find the rest of the series here:
Julie Boglisch is a prolific author. At the age of twenty-eight she has already created and published multiple works. Her second series, The Elifer Chronicles, received a glowing Kirkus Review. She is an artist both in character art and cover design and is the creator of her own covers for her works.