Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Are You an Adder or a Cutter?

When you revise that is. Are you an adder? Do you find that on your second draft, you fill in details, emotion, internal thought. Do you add subplots, bring settings to life, lengthen dialogue ?

Or, are you a cutter? Did you throw everything into that first draft and now must chip away the unimportant, dig deep to uncover truths, tighten dialogue for clarity.

Or, like me, are you both? When I revise my first draft, I find myself with a lot of excess baggage. My characters may have led me to some dead ends. I may have a subplot that doesn't work. Or, (shudder) my adults might be a tad too important. I might even need to kill off a character or two. For me, cutting is the easier part.

Adding -- oh, adding. I spend a lot of time adding. My crit partners always tell me to add more internal thought and emotion. And I know they're right. I need to let my characters react to the action that surrounds them. I often feel like a therapist. I need to get my characters to admit what is really going on inside. Some days I can get them to open up and talk. Other days I'm met with a keyboard filled with quiet. Striking the right emotional chord is one of my biggest writing challenges.

How do you all feel. Are you an adder or a cutter? Any special revision challenges?


  1. Adder!! My last manuscript went from 45K to 55K during revisions. I'm amazed at writers who end up with 100K drafts!!

  2. I am definitely both, though I probably do more cutting because I am just too long-winded. Like you, I need to add more reactions, more feeling. Then I sometimes add to much and have to pare it right back down again. When I add reactions and emotions, my kids claim that I do weird stuff, making faces, talking out loud -- having whispered conversations with myself. I'm glad I can't watch myself write.

  3. I think my stories have a life of their own...

    They start out fairly small but with pudgy baby fat, then the story grows a bit and the fat spreads out or, in places, disappears.

    A bit more work and it is a full grown story, sometimes well muscled and other times a bit anorexic. A few more drafts later and it is "just right."

    Then an agent or editor comes along and we start over again - developing muscle here and losing extra inches there.

    Can you tell I've been working out??

  4. I am probably a bit more of an adder than a cutter. But I do cut.

  5. I sketch, then flesh out, then color and then pretty it up in a frame.

  6. Both as you, but mainly adder. I add mood, and character reactions and descriptions.
    My first drafts go to the bones of the story and then just need to add something to colour it.
    But I tend to cut dead ends that don't go anywhere and don't work.
    So a mix, that's just fine :)
    but love the end work.

  7. For all you adders -- I'll let you know how much my word count goes up when I finish my current revision. I've already cut so many scenes throughout the course of this book, I've probably topped JK at her best.

    I've got the structure I want, and now must polish those descriptions and colors until they shine!

  8. Definitely both, but probably more of a cutter.

    And maybe "adder" is the wrong word for me, I'm more of a "smoother" - changing word choices, or dialogue tags. It's amazing how one word switch can create a mood, or bring the picture into sharper focus.

    Great post Judy!

    Love your analogy Meg, lol!

  9. Oh, man, I'm a cutter. I just axed 100 mspp. from a manuscript to bring it down to 50K words.

  10. For the picture book writer most of the time there is only one option - cut, cut, cut.

    Those story bones should have little flesh, but be clothed with original style.

  11. So Meg works in baby fat, Anna's first draft goes to the bones, Gale's in bones with little flesh, and Toni fleshes out!

    I'm beginning to see a theme here...