Friday, February 28, 2014


Cutting words is important. You know it's true.

I understand that it can sometimes be hard to do, but cutting can be a big part of revision. Yes, I know it might hurt. They're your words and ideas. You don't want to do cut them and no one can make you!

Well that's true too. You don't HAVE to take your words out. But sometimes, maybe many times, cutting words can make your story better. This may especially be true in the case of picture books where trends are skewing to shorter texts that let illustrations take a huge role in telling the story. I made a list of unnecessary words, but cutting can involve so much more.

I recently revised (okay, re-re-re-revised) a picture book. I loved the characters. The dialogue. The jokes! But I realized I needed to focus on the main character and his story. The other characters were taking away from that focus. So, as much as it hurt I had to chop the princess, nix the cat, and banish the bird. Oh, and take out the gumballs. (My son wasn't too happy about that!)

Is the story more focused? I think so. Is it shorter? Definitely. But in taking away I added new elements, stronger conflict, and a stronger arc. Sure, I miss the old characters a little but I like the new direction the story is heading.

Don't be afraid to cut your words or even entire characters. Cutting can take your manuscript to new places you hadn't thought of before. And don't worry, you can always put the words back if you need them. That's what cut and paste is for!


  1. Oh, I'm so on that page, lol. I've come to see it as very good discipline though, I'm way too wordy and self indulgent otherwise. Getting myself under 500 words means I end up with the story, the whole story and nothing but the story. And all the darlings that I pitilessly slaughter along the way ... 8~)

  2. I love your words here - when writing a picture book text you can forget the words are only part of the story, and you have to leave room for the illustrations to tell some of it too.
    I'm certainly going to share this with my writing group (giving you credit for it, of course!)

  3. What a struggle it is to cut, cut, and cut some more. I feel like sometimes I'm so entwined with my setting, my characters, my plot that I want to share as much of it with the reader as possible. And with picture books, it's often tough to let the masterful illustrations do the work instead of our precious words. It's truly an art and learned skill.

  4. It's funny. I'm not a wordy person. I actually have to stretch myself to write longer. I guess that's why I picture book writing feels like the right choice for me. Of course, I still have to cut words and such depending on the story. You have to trust that the illustrator will really be able to make the book whole from your words. I don't think of my words as precious. I look at them and ask myself if they are necessary. And if they aren't they have to go. Whether I like it or not. Ha! It does take practice though. Plus I save drafts in case, you know, something has to go back in. You never know!

    Thanks so much for sharing my post with your group Carolyn!