Cheryl Klein

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?