Don’t fall in love with your words. Leave them wanting more.

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Writers want their works read, so it’s always nice to hear from readers. It is especially nice when you hear the same thing over and over:

I wanted more.

In my memoir, Twinkle, many have asked why I did not list the gory details of the many instances of abuse. I tell them it is because those details don’t matter.

What did matter was the emotional, spiritual, and intellectual response of each to the abuse they suffered. My memoir, of course, focused more on my response to my abusers as well as my response to the pain of others in the family with the focus on how that could be better managed or eliminated.

Having read the book, and after hearing my explanation, readers agreed with my decision to leave them wanting more.

 

In my novel Whitfield, Nebraska, all readers have thoroughly enjoyed the pivotal scene that takes place on a 42′ catamaran parked in the middle of the ocean northwest off Anegada in the BVI.

Readers want that scene to be longer. They want more of the psychological interplay between the good guys and the bad guy. They want more of the bad guy’s confession, and the good guy’s worming that out of him.

What I tell them all is that that scene was very much longer and had all they were craving. And yes, it was brilliant and awesome and well-written, but…

But it was too long. More specifically, it was too much.

Just like somebody who dumps piles of salt onto perfect fries making them, if not inedible, then definitely something to suffer through, the scene on the boat had too much “salt.”

So I edited and reread and edited more, cutting more finely with each read-through until finally the point was clearly made, there was the peak of satisfaction in the knowing, and readers were pleased with the outcome.

 

If I had left the boat scene at its original length, I doubt very seriously readers would have wanted to continue. I certainly didn’t want them skipping through it to find the end of the scene so they could crawl out of the muck and mire that I would have put them in.

My bad guy was very bad. Furthermore, he thought nothing of excusing himself and blaming his victims in what we regular good folks identify as the most horrific language ever, made worse because of his self-centered blindness to humanity. A jury of his peers would have voted him worthy of the death penalty. Thank goodness the court system was spared that choice.

It’s a fine balance and there are no firm rules. Each story stands on its own and must include or exclude that which best serves it. Which brings us to this point:

Authors should never be so in love with their own brilliance that they are not willing to cut words where they do not work. Authors must be open to seeing the full impact of any scene on the whole of the book.

Authors must make the decisions about these things. If they cannot, or because of being too close to the material are unsure of where and what to trim, this is where an excellent editor can help.