Seeing what's got to go and what can stay is a lot like looking at one of those gestalt pictures, or maybe one of those 3-D stereograms. I've been struggling with one of my chapters in particular for several days now--originally a 7,000-word beast of a chapter, now down a couple thousand words or so. So I made a sweep, looking for stuff I thought was boring or self-indulgent and pulling it, and shortened it by a fair bit, but I thought it was still too long, so I decided to look again. Now I see all sorts of stuff that really isn't moving the story forward that somehow I missed before. And it's weird, because I read the stuff a couple of times just looking for junk to cut, and somehow thought, "this is okay . . . this is okay" and then had a moment of "What the hell?! Am I seriously spending three paragraphs talking about this?!"
I don't know whether to be pleased or troubled. On the one hand, I'm finding this crap and removing it. On the other, the way I can miss it and then just have it snap into view later worries me. How much writing that bogs the plot down instead of advancing it am I not seeing? If I didn't have this pressure to get under a certain wordcount, would I just be blithely sending this off to agents and stuff?
As with staring at stereograms, looking for pointless prose to prune gives me a headache.
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