22 June 2008

A Final Trim . . .

One of the most common changes I make as I edit stories at Electric Spec are what can be described as "final trims." Even the best stories can often be made just a little tighter by cutting unnecessary sentences, clauses, and words. Authors sometimes have blind spots about these until they are pointed out by someone else, but it's worth trying to find them before you submit to a magazine. Some of the most common areas where trimming is necessary are:

  • Info. repetition. In a short story, information about plot, character, world-building, or setting should only be given once. Also, information that can be inferred from the story should not be "told" by the author--trust your reader and assume he or she will "get it." If you tell or show us on page one that sprites live in the clouds and only come out at night, don't remind us again on page 6.
  • "Walk the dog" actions. Sometimes authors include details that are not critical to the story and only serve to slow things down. For example, if a character is taking his dog for a walk, we probably don't need to know that he called the dog, got out the collar, put the collar on the the dog, clipped the leash to the collar, opened the door, stepped outside, closed the door behind him, etc, etc. Yawn!
  • Unnecessary or distracting detail. In the above example, if you include a long description for the leash, i.e. "the leash was covered with pink and purple swirls of color that flashed in the sun as dog and master walked down the street," then there should be a reason why that description is there. If we never hear about the leash again, why did we need to know so much about it? I see this a lot with eye colors of minor characters. Who cares if the waiter in the restaurant has blue eyes? This is a tougher one to spot than the previous two bullets, but I do see it a lot.
  • Adjective overkill. "The dark disk floated in the blue sky. It was as black as night against the azure backdrop, like a lapis boat floating on an aquamarine lake." Okay, this is an exaggeration, but you get the picture. Pick your best adjective and move on. 
So, before you sent off you story ask yourself--"What can I trim?"

1 comment:

lesleylsmith said...

Interesting comments, D. Do you ask yourself the question? :)