On Saturday, we held our second writers’ retreat. One of the ladies from our PA chapter of ACFW held it at her house, but it wasn’t strictly for ACFW members and we had a nice turn out. There were nine of us this time. If I’m not mistaken, that’s two more than last time.
I led another creative exercise in the morning to get our creative juices flowing. Then we had a brainstorming session to talk about our current work in progress or any other writing project we thought we could use some brainstorming. At first, I didn’t think I had anything I needed help with. I don’t have any short projects in the works right now and I don’t seem to be struggling for blog posts either. However, Lisa, the hostess, asked me questions that got me to thinking, and I decided to ask a question and share a scene from my current novel. I’m glad I did because even though it was hard to hear something negative about the scene, it ended up being a big help, and the fact that we had a free writing session immediately following the brainstorming session gave me an immediate opportunity to rewrite the scene, making it much better.
After lunch, we had a lesson that Donna led about self editing. I don’t mind saying I did not enjoy this lesson. It was very difficult. I know that self editing is important, and I also know why she had us do the lesson she had us do, but I still didn’t like it. She had us choose a long paragraph from our current work in progress and count the words in it. Then she gave us five minutes to cut that word count in half. After that, she had us count the words again to see how we had done. Then she gave us another five minutes to cut that number in half. This exercise was an epic fail for me. You see, I don’t have very many long paragraphs in my work in progress. I struggle with including enough description to properly set my scenes, but am talented at writing good dialogue and action to keep the story moving. Therefore, I am not an overly wordy writer so it was extremely difficult to cut a paragraph without removing important information. I do understand the need to do this, though. I watched a friend struggle through having to make a lot of cuts to her first novel according to her agent’s guidelines to attempt to find publishers who might be interested in publishing that novel for her. She is extremely happy with the final results but she struggled and worked extremely hard to get there.
That is not to say that I am not willing to struggle and work hard to put out a really good final product, but I don’t think I will go about it the way that Donna had us do. I know I will start by looking for all of the “over used” words. You know, words we use over and over again because we tend to write like we talk or think. I know I will have to change, cut and find synonyms to correct this problem. I’m sure there will be other things I will have to cut as well, but I’m not really ready for that stage just yet and I need guidelines to be able to determine what really needs to be cut and what doesn’t.
How about you? What have you experienced with self editing?