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On the "cut mercilessly" rule of writing.

Published by DaWalrus in the blog DaWalrus's blog. Views: 73

In this thread originally posted by CrazyIvan, one of the replies mentions the good old "cut-to-the-bone" principle.

Reviewing my own opus in progress, I've pondered how exactly to understand that guideline. Should anything non-essential be deleted? Definitely not. How about redundant or irrelevant? Definitely yes.

A few thoughts here.

First, the porter in Macbeth. (Who's there, i' th' name of Beelzebub?). Hold on to your rotten tomatoes, I am not suggesting to edit him out, just to improve upon the classic. But even without it, would not we still have a masterpiece of a play on our hands?

On the other hand, I have enountered a specific situation, when removing an appealing piece was called for. I had three sentences: A, B, and C.

'A' presented an initial idea. Both B and C improved upon it, though they were redundant. Both appeared witty, and the choice was a bit painful. But a choice it was. Stuffing in anything that appears original, relevant and clever results in amateurish-looking clutter.

I also have a chapter which is essential to the plot, although I really hate it. So, I intend to condense it to a paragraph.

I guess, I would rephrase the rule as:

Without mercy, but with judgement, cut and condense.
  • Cogito
  • DaWalrus
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