Chopstick Editing

Aren’t these chopsticks the coolest? Many thanks to Christina Farley. I won them from her Shopping in Korea contest. Ironically enough, I’d already decided to make stir fry the night I discovered these little guys waiting for me in the mailbox. So as I ate with them for the first of many meals, picking up each tiny piece of steak, broccoli or carrot, it occurred to me how they forced me to pay attention to details.

Where’s the best place to pick up that floret? Will the beef slip if I hold it crossways (yes), how many noodles can I handle?

It also occurred to me that the whole reason my current novel took me so @#$! long to write was I edited like this, too.

I’m a Detail-oriented person with a bolded D in the largest size font imaginable. I made a habit of nitpicking through each and every draft because I kept getting entranced by individual LEAVES on the trees, when I needed to see the forest. Don’t do this to yourself. Do NOT consider each word of your ms until you’ve gone through the thing structurally. Several times. There are a hundred tools out there to help you. I used Cheryl Klein’s The Art of Detection.

Once I did that, I realized 1. I cut off probably another decade’s work. 2. Made the book ten thousand times stronger. It went from 120k words to 104 and it’s down from that by a few thousand now. Don’t use chopsticks when you need a butcher’s cleaver or even a filleting knife.

Do you chop at words, but leave pointless scenes standing? What are you working on to improve your career?




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16 Responses to “Chopstick Editing”

  1. Mary Hill says:

    Very well said. Love the Leaf by Nagel reference, by the way. You've set me to thinking… what leaves am I examining and what trees have I failed to see?

  2. Janet Johnson says:

    Yup. This is me, too! I better re-look at Cheryl Klein's stuff. I need to cut more pages. Not words. Pages.

  3. Victoria Dixon says:

    Hi, Mary! Sorry I haven't got back with you, but I got the email. The story you're referencing is "Leaf By Niggle," one of my favorites from Tolkien. Funny enough, I hadn't even noticed I'd referred to it! LOL

    Janet, I just realized the link to Cheryl Klein's Art of Detection wasn't working this morning. I just fixed it with many apologies. *hangs her head.*

  4. Kat Zhang says:

    It's so hard to cut things sometimes! I just got some feedback on my ms saying that I should shorten the middle section a bit, but I really don't know what I can get rid of without reducing character development or essential plot points. I guess that's what they mean by "every scene should serve at least three roles!"

  5. Victoria Dixon says:

    I feel for you, Kat. Seriously. I've been told to cut this, keep this and the "this" is the SAME THING. I finally had to consider who the suggestions came from, how well they understood the story and why they said what they did. In the end, you know your story best. This may also be the time to break out the chopsticks! LOL They do have their virtues. Good luck!

  6. catwoods says:


    I love this post. I am a meat cleaver kind of gal. I have no fear of chopping away to cut out problem areas.

    My problem is that when I finally whip out the chopsticks I keep learning new ways to use them. This keeps me busy "detailing" my manuscript to death.

    I keep telling myself that when I can read a manuscript all the way through without changing a word I'll be done. The problem: that will NEVER happen. EVER. Becaue no ms is perfect.

    That knowledge doesn't keep me from trying, though.

  7. Lisa_Gibson says:

    Great post! I've learned to get way less attached to my words. I start with a meat cleaver, working down to a paring knife and then a final run with chopsticks (it's okay to run with chopsticks right?). 😉

  8. Victoria Dixon says:

    I'm HOPING (crosses her fingers) I'll be able to be a meat cleaver girl next time around. Right now I'm still gathering ingredients right now. ;D At least this time I'll have a better idea of what I'm cooking.

    Seriously, I know there will always be things I'll find and want to change – even after it's published. Still, there are times when you can't keep reading and editing, either. It's like a cloaking device covering your ms so you can't see it. The only thing to do then seems to be, query or write the next book. LOL

  9. Victoria Dixon says:

    Oh, and chopsticks are cool running buddies. ;D

  10. Jeannie Lin says:

    Good realization to have! I never line edit until I've done one or two passes for structural edits because the words are changing drastically through the first revisions. To write 80K, I swear I've cut an additional 40k. 🙂

  11. Victoria Dixon says:

    Definately the smarter way to go, Jeannie. I just love the details too much. Of course, I'm also hoping that next time around I'll understand more of what I'm doing WHEN I'm doing it, thus making fewer mistakes to start with. That's ideal, right? LOL

  12. Christina Farley says:

    I'm so glad you liked them!Yeah!

  13. uLi.佑莉 says:

    I got a very nice chopstick too from China. I bought it for my guest during my upcoming wedding in Dec'10 as the door gift 🙂

  14. Victoria Dixon says:

    Thanks for dropping by, uLi!

  15. Margo Berendsen says:

    Thanks for the advice and I'll be checking out that website with the revision method. Tryng to get my word count down too.

  16. Victoria Dixon says:

    I saw that on your blog, Margo. I'm sure there are other methods besides Cheryl's, but it worked well for me and did so for a variety of problems. It was painful, but oh, so worth it. Afterwards, I felt the whole ms tighten with each cut – like laces pulling together a bodice. Each cut was a tug, ya know? LOL

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