I’ve spent my afternoons this week at a great little coffee shop in Boston, doing another revision pass on my upper-MG dystopian novel. Early in the week, I made a plot map showing where things move along nicely and where they slow down, and I decided that cutting some fat would really help the book’s pacing. Here’s what got the axe:
1. Dr. William Noyes. He was a secondary character whose job was already being done by another, more interesting secondary character. Goodbye, Dr. Noyes.
2. A whole bunch of getting-from-one-place to another scenes. When I’m drafting, I often feel the need to take every step of a journey with my characters. If they’re having a picnic in the woods, for example, I need to step over every pine cone with them, hold back every branch, feel every squish of every sneaker. I think that helps me get mentally to the place where the action is going to happen, but my readers don’t need (or want) to take so long getting there, so many of these scenes are shortened a lot or deleted when I revise.
3. The word "actually" — about a thousand instances of overuse.
4. The phrase "what looked like" — ditto. While I’m a frequent abuser of "actually," this was a new one for me. Reading through the manuscript, I’d find myself writing things like this: She had what looked like jam all over her fingers. Really? If she’s sitting there with toast, can’t we just make the leap and call it jam? Delete.
5. Most of Chapter 5 and half of Chapter 9. Don’t worry. You’ll never miss them.
I’d love to hear from some of my writer friends in the comments. What kinds of things do you find yourself cutting out of your works-in-progress during the revision stage?