Monday, September 8, 2008

Cutting the Clutter

I have a list of article submissions and queries I try to accomplish on a regular basis. These are jobs that get pushed to the back burner for when I have a moment of time to work on them. As a general rule of thumb, I try to work on one a week. Last week I had a submission I wanted to get in on an article I'd had sitting around for a long time; however, I'd need to cut over 200 words to get it to fit the submission requirements. I thought the topic would be a great fit for this particular publication, so I began cutting.

Every article has a little bit of cutting room, and the article is always better for it in the long run. All writers know this. In fact, Anne, over at The Golden Pencil, talks about this in her recent post "Just Eliminate Some of Your Deathless Prose." 200 words felt to me like an enormous amount of cutting, though. I wasn't sure I could actually do it and end up with anything substantial, but I wanted to try, so I began cutting. At first it was relatively painless. In fact, it felt good--in that way that getting rid of clutter always does. Then it began to hurt a little--then a lot! There were several sentences I contemplated cutting and then decided to leave for last. I had to come back to them, though, in order to make those final steps toward reaching my word-count goal.

I was certain when I did my final read-through this chopped-up article would be lacking something, wouldn't make sense, wouldn't resemble my original intent. Was it different for the cutting? Absolutely. It didn't follow the exact direction intended in the original article. I was amazed to discover, though, that what I was left with was still a good article. There are a couple of sentences I'd put back in today, if I could. I'm missing them that much. In spite of that, though, there sure was a lot of stuff in there I could do without. The problem is, we are attached to our words. They're like little pieces of us embedded into our work. We find it difficult to believe that an article can exist without them, but it really can.

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