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Revision: Knowing what to cut #2

Cheryl's Musings: Revision: Knowing what to cut #2

Cheryl's Musings

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road


Revision: Knowing what to cut #2

Today's post continues thoughts on what to look for, and cut from, your manuscript during the rewrite process. The wordiness culprit of the day? Dialog tags.

You've probably heard the rule: in the land of dialog tags, fewer are usually better. When I revise dialog, my first step is simply to look for any tags that I can eliminate without causing confusion about who speaks when. That done, I read the scene aloud and ask myself a few questions:
  1. Are the speakers clear? (I know, checked that above, but it can always stand a double-check.)

  2. How's the language? Are the characters speaking like people, or does their speech sound too wordy or forced?

  3. Is the setting clear, or does the reader need more of a grounding in the scene?

For #2...well, that's a topic for another day. Crafting believable dialog is an art, easy for few and difficult for most of us. I'll come back to it later.

For #3: I find this question especially valuable because it's easy to forget about the characters' bodies and surroundings when I'm focused on what they're saying to each other. Boosting the reader's ability to "see" a scene doesn't take much. You can replace some of those endless "he saids/she saids" with a line of character description or action. For ex., "Albert said" might become "Albert hitched his backpack strap higher on his shoulder." Of course, this adds more words--so does it count as cutting? Yep, because adding these snippets of setting and character info helps you avoid lengthy description dumps when the scene begins.

Rewriting is where your scene comes to life. Have fun tweaking!

:) Cheryl (who's still deep in rewriting Juggling the Keystone, which has plenty of words worth cutting!)

PS--Pictured is my wonderful, comfortable Sensa pen, highly recommended for anyone else who writes longhand. Ten pages a day longhand could make anyone's hand hurt, but not with this beauty!
PPS--My son, Robin, wants me to credit him for the photo. In fact, I should credit him for a lot of the photos I use--he's my resident photographer of unusual perspectives :).



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