How to Delete Paragraphs without Crying

I was getting tired waiting to hear back about the same submissions from the same places and realized that I literally haven’t submitted anything since BEFORE the NYU program. [shocked gasp]  Of course, this is not only completely unacceptable, but an unsustainable writing practice.  Thanks to Kat over at her blog After I Quit My Day Job mentioning her new (and hilarious!) publication credit, Adventures in (M)anthropology, I discovered skirt.com.  A website always in need of non-fiction essays aimed at women, it was the perfect home for a story I’ve been trying to place since last summer.  The only problem?  Skirt.com’s maximum word count is 1,500-words and my story was 2,400-words.  Yeah, exactly.  Yikes.

What do you do in these situations?  Do you sigh deeply and look for a different publication with a higher word count?  Or do you try to edit?  How many words are you willing to delete without fear of killing a little part of your writing soul?

I’ve found that having two Word documents is the best way to trick yourself into deleting sentences and paragraphs that you’ve grown emotionally attached to.  You leave the original document as is.  It is a historical document.  Preserve it.  Then on the editing document, have at it!  Delete everything that you don’t think belongs, even if it’s the most beautifully constructed sentence ever.  Don’t worry, it’s saved in the preserved document and you can visit it later, maybe even transplant it into a new story where it actually belongs.

It hurts less to know that it’s not really gone, not permanently deleted.  The trick makes me a much better editor of my own work and, with the help of my critical younger sister–who shows no particular favoritism for any of my prose, unless it’s actually decent–I was able to shave it down to the right size.  Cross your fingers for me!  Skirt.com responds in 6-8 weeks.

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3 thoughts on “How to Delete Paragraphs without Crying

  1. Gretchen O'Donnell says:

    This is good advice – I keep two versions of things too – the long one and the short one – though sometimes what I do instead is put the cut stuff into a file marked (creatively) “Cut stuff for ___________”! That way I don’t have to weed through a HUGE file to find something, I can just look at the cut paragraphs and see if they should be put back in somewhere else…or I go back later and get rid of them! It’s worked well so far! I found your post via Katy’s blog…looks like some good stuff…and a state-of-being that many of us can relate to!

  2. hannahkarena says:

    Smart choice, I should probably keep a deleted file too. I just realized that I want the longer version of the above mentioned story, but liked some of my edits so I’m going to have to week through and see what was good deletes and what were bad ones. Not the most efficiently spent time!

    Yeah, I really enjoy Katy’s blog I’m glad you found your way over here too! Have you submitted anywhere recently? I’m always up for hearing about new publications :]

  3. lovethebadguy says:

    Sounds like good advice. I get waaay too attached to my work and refuse to delete even the smallest sentence.

    …Those are usually the ones that I look at a week later and think, “What the heck is that doing in there?”

    *DELETE*

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