Like Shadows in the Dark

I had to cut 13,000 words off of one of my manuscripts.

The prospect of it almost made me cry.

Not only is cutting a real editorial drag. It’s also heart-wrenching.

Those words have existed. They’ve lived, not only in my mind, but on the computer screen. Other readers have absorbed the words, too.

But as I began the work, I noticed something interesting. Lots of phrases and sentences existed like shadows in the dark.

Now, garden shadows in the bright light make sense. They serve a purpose. They shelter, they refresh, they complement. Their movement in the breeze identifies the object.

They derive their size and shape from the object behind which the sun is prevented from shining.

But a shadow in the dark has no purpose. It is extraneous.

So I spent an entire week searching for shadows in the dark in my manuscript.

Here’s what I found:

  • repetitive phrases.
  • Overly descriptive language.
  • Parts of scenes that could be omitted to speed up the action.
  • Dialogue that’s too wordy.
  • Scenes that are nice but not absolutely necessary.

This past week, I grew in my craft as a writer. I read through my edited manuscript and declared it “way better.”

It read like a garden that’s just had a good spring cleaning. No more weeds, shaggy bushes or overhanging branches. Neat and trimmed.

Only the necessary shadows remain.



7 thoughts on “Like Shadows in the Dark”

  1. Hi Dena –

    I can relate. With a major edit, a synopsis, backcover copy, and a bio, I had to do some serious cutting. There were some phrases/sentences I really liked, but they didn’t add to the tension or the plot.

    Susan 🙂

    1. Hi Susan, yes, I had to remove words and phrases that I really liked. I have a friend who keeps a file for just such purposes. She calls them her “sweet words file.”

  2. Deana, this was such an awesome alagory of night shadows versus needed shading. How heroic of you. I hope your manuscript gets into print and soars. Cheers, Marilyn

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