I’ve been thinking about stuff lately. As in, the clutter that can be found in (or, to be more accurate, spilling out of) every cupboard, drawer, shelf, and corner of my house, in spite of my best intentions and innumerable trips to Goodwill. Six months ago I moved to a new town. Moving is a terrible job, no question, but the one really great thing about it is the opportunity to purge all unwanted and unnecessary items from the house. It is, however, mind-boggling how little time it takes for the empty spaces and corners to once again become filled to overflowing. Six months, to be exact.
My plan is to purge again – without waiting until the next time I am actually packing up to move, which could be (and hopefully will be) years from now. It’s a daunting task, but well worth it, because of the feeling that comes with the accomplishment of this job, a feeling that can best be described as “lightness.” There seems to be a direct correlation between the amount of stuff in my house and the almost tangible weight pressing down on my shoulders. A weight that lifts with every box and bag that goes out the door.
The rule of purging, apparently, is to only have things in your house that you know to be beautiful or believe to be useful. (Warning: do not attempt to apply this principle to the people in your house, endless problems could ensue.)
The same is true in writing. Unnecessary details, over-explaining and/or endless, monotonous dialogue weighs down the story, sometimes to the point of burying it entirely under mounds of excessive wording.
Just as it is important to occasionally go through drawers and cupboards to get rid of anything that hasn’t seen the light of day in years, so it is imperative to read over your work, ruthlessly cutting out and tossing anything you find that doesn’t have to be there, and that only adds heaviness and clutter to the manuscript.
Ask yourself as you read each chapter, or even as you read each sentence or word; does this provide a function in the novel, i.e does it move the story along? Or does it add beauty to the scene, which can be (although it is not always, still try to err on the side of sparseness and simplicity) a legitimate reason to keep it in.
Like decluttering your home, decluttering your manuscript can be a daunting task. But the feeling of lightness – in your psyche and in your manuscript – that is the inevitable result is always worth the effort.
Press on, my friends. Press on,