Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Remove the Scaffolding

“Edit your manuscript until your fingers bleed and you have memorized every last word. Then, when you are certain you are on the verge of insanity...edit one more time!”
― C.K. Webb

I continue to remove as many words as I can from the crazy huge manuscript about running my first marathon. My latest trick is what good friend and award-winning author, Tania Casselle, referred to as "removing the scaffolding" when she critiqued a different book I had attempted.

Often first drafts contain phrases, whole sentences, or even entire paragraphs that prop up the real thing we want to say. If our work is strong enough, it can stand on its own. Our job is to remove that scaffolding.

Here's a very brief example:

First draft:
I spent some time standing by the window looking out at a pale moon. The light that it shone glinted against a thin layer of ice on the cracked sidewalk. That cracked sidewalk was where I had fallen when I was running just a few weeks before. Then it had looked ugly and swollen even though the crack was the merest of things, just a bit of a thing, not even an inch of difference in the two edges, but there I had fallen down hard on my arm and my knee and hit my chest. It hurt bad. It still hurt. The ribs were still bruised and I favored them even though I tried not to.

Second (third or fourth) draft:
I looked out the window at the pale moonlight. It glinted off a thin layer of ice on the cracked sidewalk. I'd fallen there a few weeks before while running. Then the small crack had looked ugly and swollen, the merest bit of a thing, not even an inch of difference in the two edges. My skinned arm and knee and my bruised ribs still hurt. I favored them even though I tried not to.

I've removed the scaffolding. Only what I want remains.

Now you try it. Let me know how it goes.

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