Should it Stay or Should it Go?

Sacrifice has been one of my words du jour in my last few book redrafts. After much painstaking work and consideration of nearly everything, it is down to 112,000 words now. That wasn’t always so, and I’m too embarrassed to say how much longer the book was at its largest. I’m proud when I think of the work that was done to both reduce its size and vastly improve flow—it’s a lean reading machine now.

And it wouldn’t have happened without giving up some things. As I redrafted and whittled chapters down, I kept thinking, ‘sacrifice! What can go?’ I had to because the book, though great in my mind, was too long and bloated. Lots of stuff could have been chucked, but at times I couldn’t figure out what. I loved my scenes so much that I didn’t want to part with anything.

But I had to for publishability, and for my readers’ sanity. Now and then, chapter by chapter and scene by scene, some things had to be parted with. I recall many times saying to myself, ‘this is nice, I like it a lot. But it’s not really necessary for the context, is it? Is it?’ Those were the moments where I had to make the decision of, ‘fine, I’ll delete it….’

I think sacrifice is something every author has to deal with. After a certain point in crafting a work, we like everything we’ve written and created, but we realize we can’t keep it all. Even creative expression (at least in novel form) requires a certain logical flow and progression, rather than a flailing swirl. My book wasn’t quite that, but it was a bit rotund and in need of a diet. Thanks to a developed ability to let go of my notions and favorite items, and to downsize for the good of the work’s success, I’ve created a book that I’m truly proud of, and gained a new and vital authorial skill.

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