Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Leave Out



"I try to leave out the parts that people skip."

~Elmore Leonard


Best revising advice ever! If people are going to skip it, take it out. Of course, it's also paired with the understood Put in the parts people want to read.

Ahh. If only it were so simple.

But I don't know-- maybe it is that simple. Maybe the challenge lies in knowing which parts people will want to skip. And once you know that, it's as simple as leaving out those parts.

What do you think? Simple or not so simple?

And do you know what makes you think better? Staring at cookies! (Right? I know it totally helps me.)

Photo credit and recipe link for Cookies & Cups (thanks, Jo!)

Happy Friday the thirteenth, everyone!!

36 comments:

Paul Tobin said...

I think this is an interesting insight into the art of good writing. I think keeping it pithy is a real skill, that for me is where rewriting comes in, I have to redraft my work many times. You challenge is going very well, I am enjoying it.

JeffO said...

It's not simple at all. One of the funny things is seeing things crit partners have told me to leave out. "You don't need this" they say, but then reading something in a published book that 'feels' just like the sort of thing I'm told to leave out!

Jack said...

I skip the parts with long narrative descriptions. Ugh, really boring. I don't write those parts :) I tend to keep my writing quick, snappy without the long descriptions.

Joshua said...

Based on Jack's comment, I'm not sure he'd like the way I write. Most of the manuscripts I have nearing completion deal with solitary characters. Not a lot of dialogue.

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I think about when I skip and it tends to be over description of setting almost all the time. I would rather have something that is alluded to than every detail outlined.

Libby said...

I have a friend helping to edit my novel. His main job, so far, is to cut all the stuff that is either back story or that people will skip. My chapter 2 was apparently half back story!

Chantele Sedgwick said...

Something I usually skip is a lot of description. If it goes on for more than a few paragraphs, I scrap it. :) Everything else, people usually have to tell me what to cut... Have a great weekend!!

Jeff Hargett said...

Perhaps I'm the odd reader out. I almost never skip anything in a book fearing that what I'd skip would contain the one crucial element I'd need to appreciate the rest. I'll grit my teeth, squint, sob, yell, take breaks, almost anything to get through those bits people skip. If I can't get through it, I put away the book with a mix of disappointment and guilt.

And yes, staring at cookies makes me think...right now, they're girl scout shortbread cookies and I'm thinking, "I will *not* eat a whole sleeve again today..."

Angela Brown said...

It's kind of hard, so not so simple would be my answer. Things one group of readers would skip would be the parts another group of readers would salivate over. It's hard to tailor a book to different "skip" preferences so in the end, I suppose it would be best to consider, as the writer, would parts would YOU skip...then put something in it's place that you wouldn't skip so that you can get that information across to the readers.

Mara Rae said...

So true! But like others have said, everyone's opinion is different. I have a boy in my WIP that some people love and other people think is too boring. I guess I'll do whatever my editor tells me to do (if I ever have one!).

Patti said...

I definitely skip over a lot of description, but I also know people who love to read every word of description.

I think it's a lot harder than it sounds because everyone likes different things about reading. I love dialogue whereas my husband hates it and that's why he typically only reads non-fiction.

Cortney Pearson said...

Like others have said I try to leave out long descriptive parts or exposition, but it's a tough call sometimes! Love that quote!

Cassie Mae said...

I see big paragraphs and I try to split them up. :)

And I really can't concentrate with those cookies staring me in the face. :)

Jenny S. Morris said...

It's hard to know. I tend to skip long descriptions and long past story info. I want to know the hear and now. But other people thrive on those things. So what I try to do is slip in the same info in shorter bits.

Tasty cookies. Have a great weekend.

Jaime Morrow said...

I think it's hard to know which parts people will skip because different people will skip different parts. You know what I mean? For me, I love the romance in books, but I know there are those who would skip these scenes just to get to more action, and vice versa. Some people hate prologues and backstory while others (like me) have no issue with it.

It's tough knowing which parts should remain, and which ones will cause a large degree of skippage :)

Nicole Mc said...

To be very specific...I usually always skip the bad guy stuff. In a lot of adult third person novels there are sometimes sections devoted to "getting in the bad guys head." Sorry...i'm not interested. I don't really care what his motivation is for being bad. AT.ALL. I should say that I'm also not a reader of crime/thriller/suspense so maybe some people love this. Not me. Some of my favorite novels of all time have this and I forgive those authors because it's my issue for sure. Oooh, I remember one where I did love the bad guy— THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH. I guess there exceptions to every rule.

FWIW, I made the BEST peanut butter cookies last night. It was a new recipe and not a single one was left today!! lol

Carrie Butler said...

Ditto what Jeff said! Not simple at all. ;) Have a great weekend, Pegasus!

Colin Smith said...

Another approach to the "take out what people skip" is to re-write the skippable section to make it unskippable. If you think that paragraph of description is necessary, how can you write that description, or set up that paragraph in such a way that the reader will feel compelled to read it? I think part of it's voice. If you're really engaged with the writer's voice, you'll read anything s/he writes--even the long description, because you love the way s/he writes it. Conversely, if you're struggling with the author's voice on the easy bits, when it comes to those difficult bits, you'll be longing for them to be over--or skipping them altogether.

Just some thoughts. :)

Aidyl Ewoh said...

Leave out parts people don’t want to read? Makes sense. =)
~Aidyl
www.aidylewoh.blogspot.com

Daisy Carter said...

I tend to skip descriptions that don't feel...full. I want to know what the tree bark looks like if it's a metaphor or important in some way. But if the description only serves to tell me about a tree that's just a tree, I get frustrated and move on.

Love the quote!

Nancy Thompson said...

Ah, if it was only so easy to see what those parts were.

Last week, I made some lemon sugar cookies for my husband. I'd never made them before and it was late & I was trying to read the recipe, but I skipped the 1 egg part and only noticed the 1 egg white at the end. So instead of the whole egg, I only added the white. Of course, I discovered this after I already had the dough rolled up and in the fridge. I figured I'd just bake them and see how they turned out. And you know what? I didn't even notice that missing egg yolk! They were so good!!

How'd you like that analogy?!

S.P. Bowers said...

Excellent advice but not so simple. It's so hard to be objective about our own novels. That's why crit partners and beta readers are so important. They show us how others view it and it makes that advice just a little more simple.

Cherie Reich said...

Sorry, I momentarily got distracted by the cookies.

Personally, I find it is much easier to leave out the parts people will skip as opposed to add the parts that people won't skip and know the difference between the two.

Susan Kane said...

I tend to skip repetitive descriptions. Also, dense long paragraphs need to be broken up to give the reader a pattern of negative space to stay interested.

Grammy said...

Cookies! Yum! Hmm what did you say now? Oh, yeah! What I would be sure to put in is enough description for the reader to "get the picture" but not drown in it. Use one or two words that paint the picture instead of twenty that actually repeat the same idea in several different ways. The reader doesn't want to be hit over the head with an idea or description, when a tip of the hat will do. :)
Best regards to you. Ruby

Jo said...

I think it's good advice... but very hard sometimes to figure out what that is. What _I_ skip might be totally different from what you would skip...

ha... I was at my kids' science fair when I got your response yesterday. I laughed, and my husband wanted to know what was so funny, so I was explaining the whole thing and how I'd left a link to homemade nutter butters instead and--

"Why would you make homemade nutter butters?"
"Umm... cause they look good. And they're NUTTER BUTTERS."
"They aren't THAT good."
*me staring*
"Well, they're NOT!"
*me still staring* "No... no, that's fine. You can think that. I'm no longer sharing mine."

Jo
In Which We Start Anew

kbrebes said...

Those TOTALLY look like homemade nutter butters!! I want the recipe, Peggy!!! But then, I want to read your book, too! Best Congratulations!

Ruth Josse said...

Um, there is no part that anyone would dare skip in my book. That's what I say to myself after I finish the first draft. THEN I read it again and get a reality check.

Tonja said...

I'm not sure it's that easy to predict what people will want to read and what they will want to skip. Love the cookies.

Kelley Lynn said...

What did you say? I was staring at the cookies ;) ;)

Have a great weekend!

Nicole said...

I think it's simple-ish in the editing process, when we're thinking more like readers. It's really hard to catch on the first time through!

Shannon Lawrence said...

Mmmm, are those like homemade Nutter Butters? Mmmmm.

That's great advice! It seems so simple, but I doubt it really is. It's knowing what people will skip that is the tricky part.

Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the 2012 #atozchallenge! Twitter: @AprilA2Z

Annalisa Crawford said...

I'm terrible for skimming paragraphs, and sometimes whole pages. I feel bad, because as a writer I know the effort that author has put into those words, but... I totally agree with this advice, and I hope I adhere to it. Occassionally though, if you've got a great paragraph that you've strived over, it's hard to cut it out.

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

I'm never sure what people might skip, but I figure if it's boring to write it, it's boring to read it, so skip it! :)

Leslie Rose said...

I shouldn't have read this post on an empty stomach. Now I'm craving cookies. I will find those little niggly useless bits in my story when I'm revising. It's funny how somethings that seemed so necessary initially are so easy to toss out later.

Tracy Bermeo said...

I used to hate cutting things out- it all seemed so important. The more I write though, the easier it has become to take out unnecessary words, sentences and paragraphs. It can make a story much stronger.