I deleted two chapters today and I feel good.
Okay, not great, but good. No writer likes to delete their words. We want to think that everything we write is amazing when we write it and worth reading … but it’s not. I’ve never been afraid to slash and burn, but too many writers I’ve talked to are scared to death. They either think they’re amateurs who don’t know what they’re doing if they have to cut something, or they think they’re idiots who can’t write. Or — worse — they think everything they write is brilliant and if readers or New York agents don’t see that, then they are the problem, not the writing.
The truth is, every author worth her salt needs to know how to self-edit. Whether that means cutting whole chapters or tweaking a scene, it’s all important to crafting the best story for readers. Not every word you write needs to stay on the page. Not every chapter needs to be in the book.
There are two forms of self-editing. The second I’m not really going to talk about. That’s the line-by-line editing. When your book is complete, you go through it front to back and “massage” the text. Cut paragraphs, maybe scenes; rewrite dialogue to sound natural; fix repetition and find better ways to say something. Sometimes, completely rewrite the book. That’s all necessary. But what I really want to talk about is developmental self-editing. And this gets tricky.