The last edit of a book is always the hardest. I’ve smoothed out the story and prettied up the paragraphs, but now it’s time to take William Faulkner’s advice and “kill all my darlings.”
No, I’m not going to actually murder anyone–but many lovely words are going to die.
They really are my darlings. It’s easy to fall in love with pretty descriptions and interesting details, and it’s almost painful to consign them to the Virtual Dustbin–a file on my computer where good words go to die. I tell myself I’ll revisit them and use them in some other book, but I rarely do. Still, it makes me feel better to know they’re still around.
My pretty words have to die, because too much of a good thing is a serious problem when it comes to writing. The days when readers enjoyed long descriptions a la James Fenimore Cooper are gone. Books have to compete with movies and television, or, in the case of younger readers, thirty-second Tik-Tok videos! Attention spans are growing shorter, and a story has to move.
“How to Unwrap a Cowboy” will hopefully have enough descriptions to make you feel like you’re in Wyoming, but not enough to make you want to move on. You’ll probably never know exactly what modifications Griff made to his old Jeep Cherokee, but trust me, it really doesn’t matter. You won’t find out who Riley James’s father is either, but that’s okay. She’s not sure herself, and I can assure you that has no bearing on the current story.
And so I work on, slashing with my big sharp knife like an explorer carving a path through the forest–or like myself, struggling through my overgrown aspen grove (see photo above).
I promise you won’t miss these words a bit. They’d only get in the way of the story–but it still makes me sad to see them go.