Training the Eye (part 3): Knowing what to keep and what to cut

Good afternoon, friends!

Did you recently finish writing a novel? Or, did you finish one a while ago and now you’re sitting on the manuscript, dreading going into the editing phase? I’m with you, on both counts. I have a few manuscripts that are completed, manuscripts I’m just sitting on until I have the oomph to actually edit them. Which means that I’m also always just about to enter a new round of editing.

So I might be just the person to tell you a bit about what goes into those edits, and the things you should be looking for as you train your eye in the art of editing. All month long, let’s discuss, shall we?


Training the eye to edit (part 3)


Today, let’s go into one of the things we all dread, the things we hope we didn’t do so we don’t have to fix it while we’re editing.


1.      Unnecessary information

I’m sure you won’t be surprised that this is something I struggle with. I like to include a lot of information, a lot of detail, and I often find during edits that I need to go through and remove a fair bit of it. I also have a tendency to overwrite in certain situations, and find that I have to remove all those overwritten sections if only to make sure the finished product is actually good. I hope.

In any case, we’re all known to write information that’s just not necessary in the long run. Sometimes it’s a chapter, other times it’s a small scene or a section that just doesn’t quite work out the way it was meant to. Other times, it’s a phrase we use too often, one that adds no meaning to the sentence or the scene in question. Whatever the case, it all has to go. All of it. Leaving it in only proves to your readers that you can’t let go of the errant words you wrote, and you don’t want that to happen.

It’s a matter of training your eye (is that phrase getting annoying to you yet?) to find the words and sections that just don’t need to be there—and it helps to go in knowing that there are pieces that just don’t belong.

Of course, you know me, I always recommend keeping a copy of the original, just for you. That way, when it comes time to make cuts, you won’t miss anything in the long run. All your words are still there, still written; they just won’t be in the final version.


2.      Unnecessary characters 

I hate when this happens. Honestly, I do. I hate it. It’s pretty much the worst thing that ever happens in my writing, when I find in my editing that I have a character that just doesn’t need to be there. I hate it. I hate having to cut characters. It’s one of the most difficult things to do, one of the things I dread when I come across it… and yet one of the things I’m all too familiar with.

Sometimes it just happens. We wrote this whole story with this side character who we loved when we started writing, and then somehow they just… turned into something that didn’t need to be there. Their personality was outshined by others in the story, they meant nothing in the long run, had no part to play in the real story within your words, and you’ve found that it just makes more sense if they get removed before the book goes to print.

Not a fun thing to discover, not a fun thing to have to deal with, but it’s something you need to get comfortable doing. Of course, again, I’d say that it’s best to keep a copy of your original, if only so you don’t lose your character in their entirety by the time you’re done.

So, yet again, train your eye to look for one more thing that doesn’t need to be there, a thing that wants to have a part in this story but doesn’t need one, a thing that we probably fell in love with while we were writing, and that we now discovered plays no part in that writing at all.

*sigh* I’m sorry if this happens to you. I truly am. But it’s something you’ll have to learn to deal with, because the fact of the matter is that it will probably happen to you at some point in your writing career.


Rani Divine
Associate Editor, etc.