Category: Mini-Blog

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Murderer!

I’m sure by now we all know about William Faulkner’s dictum to “Kill all your darlings.” (And if you aren’t, you can read up on it: here.)

A client gave me this “thank you” for all the words I cut from his manuscript. I’m not going to lie, I was a little creeped out at first.

But then I got into the spirit. Yes, that is part of why you need an editor.

  • Because you repeat material without developing it;
  • Because we got the point 100 words ago;
  • Because what you’re talking about now has no bearing on the subject, even though it might also be true;
  • Because you think you’re being cute but you’re just being annoying;
  • Because the best thing you’ve written in ten pages should get a chance to stand out more fully in relief.

These are some of the answers to the question, When is murder not a crime?

 

Answer Me This

Do you like a good question?

There is a part of the writing process where asking the right questions is the best thing you can hope for…and also, all you need.

The whole point of asking a question is you don’t know the answer. And if you want a real answer, it can’t be something you already know — therefore, you have to wait. And sit with the question, and not whine, and not short-circuit the period of not knowing by a desire to be comfortable/rush through discomfort by getting easier answers that are not yet full ones.

People who like certainties won’t like questions. People — like writers — who enjoy discovering new things…just might.

It’s About the Reader

After thirty years of studying the craft, I finally get it. It’s about the reader, not the writer. Your work has to reach the reader, it has to open out to the reader, it has to be about the reader, even just analogically.

No one really cares about you. When I say this to clients, whether they are writing memoir or prescriptive non-fiction, there is a gasp or a moment of uncomfortable silence while this fact is recognized and accepted.

Once it has been accepted then we can take the next step and say, it may not just be about the reader. It may look more like this (Venn diagram alert!):

Coming Home

Sometimes in revision, we have to go the long way around until we get back home — but then we recognize it as home. That’s a thought I had last month, seemingly for the first time, so I was surprised to come across this meme:

I did not make this. I didn’t even know what it was from until a search revealed it was something I wrote in my first book. Which might be a meta-case of what this idea was pointing to in the first place. Trippy.