Last night I printed off a draft of a story I'm working on for my husband to read. It was 2,000 words and needed to be shaved down to about 1,200. He balked at first. "I'm not a journalist, what would I know about what needs to be cut?"
"Just give it a read and see where there are places that don't move the story forward," I told him, with pleading eyes.
I've never asked this of him before, but this story is for a new (to me) national market and I really needed someone to give me another perspective. I know he's very interested in the subject, so I felt he was the perfect first reader. Well, there's that and the fact that I've threatened on occasion to leave him out of my book acknowledgments (when I eventually write a book) because he never reads what I write.
He was a captive audience and I took advantage. I'll hand you your dinner when you read my draft.
Immediately he started in and noticed a missing word or two. I handed him a red pen and the power that comes whence. He kept shaking his head and I'll admit I was worried. When he finished he said, "I don't know how you're going to cut this. Everything flows and it all seems to be so important to the story."
Welcome to my world, to the journalist's world. Where half is the most we are permitted sometimes.
He was good at identifying main themes in the story and really good and picking up those missed words (a, is, in, etc.), the ones we tend to lose when our fingers and brains move too quickly.
I was glad to have his comments. But I still needed to make cuts. So I slept on the story and ripped into it again today. It was tough, but there's a point in rewriting when you're less sympathetic to your own writing, but only a tiny bit and only because you eventually want to be finished with the story.
When he called I was just finishing the final touches. I read it to him over the phone. "What did you cut? It sounds like you didn't lose anything?"
That, my dear, is the point.
Word of the day
riposte: a retaliatory verbal sally