#ReVISIONweek Day Five: Small But Mighty Revision Tip: Jocelyn is holding her words

I must confess, I’m a “grass is always greener” writer. 

Macintosh HD:Users:jocelynrish:Desktop:Grass.gif

While I’m drafting, I constantly whine that I wish the words were already there so I could be revising them. While I’m revising, I always moan that I’d rather be writing something new than fixing my mess.

Clearly, I’m a delight to be around when I’m writing!

As much as I grumble during each stage, there is a special thrill that comes with each part: the rush of creating a story out of nothing and then the delight of molding it into something better. 

Often, part of making our words better is deleting them. But it can be so hard! After all the time and energy that went into putting them on paper in the first place, how can we just … erase them?!?

Many deletions are easy because so much of rough drafts suck. But some deletions are tough because the words really are good – they just don’t belong in that story.

A hilarious bit of dialog that the character would never say in that moment. A gorgeous description that slows down the pace of the story. A fun character that contributes nothing to the plot. Entire chapters that no longer fit the twist you added at the start of act two. 

These are the cuts we agonize over. Our fingers hover over the delete key. In our gut, we know it’s the right call to take them out. But we love them so much!

A small but mighty tip that has helped me is something I heard about years ago. For each book I write, I have a “Holding” document. As I revise and need to edit out chunks, instead of hitting the delete key, I cut and paste them into the Holding document. That way I’m not killing my darlings, I’m just relocating them. The relocation might be temporary (although usually it’s not) so it helps me get past the feeling of destroying my words and get on with the business of improving my manuscript. 

Moving these words rather than deleting them can ease the tough “stay or go” decisions. And if down the road it turns out these chapters or sentences are really needed, they are simple to retrieve. Or maybe you can use them in a different story. Or if you have the type of audience that enjoys extras about your writing process, you can always share these deleted scenes. 

So don’t despair when it comes to your darlings – you can be a mover rather than a murderer!

PRIZE ALERT: Jocelyn is offering a picture book critique (less than 1000 words) for one lucky winner!

When Jocelyn was small but MIGHTY!
Jocelyn now… STILL MIGHTY!

Jocelyn Rish is a writer and filmmaker who loves researching weird and wonderful animals and sharing what she learns. Her first book was BATTLE OF THE BUTTS, about ten animals that do weird things with their butts. Her next book is BATTLE OF THE BRAINS and will release this November. When she’s not writing, she tutors kids to help them discover the magic of reading. Jocelyn has won numerous awards for her short stories, screenplays, short films, and novels and lives in South Carolina with her dogs. Learn more at jocelynrish.com.


30 thoughts on “#ReVISIONweek Day Five: Small But Mighty Revision Tip: Jocelyn is holding her words

  1. Yep, I do this one, too! And I save each substantial draft so that I can go back if I need to. (But like you said, I usually never do!) I’d love a critique!

  2. Congratulations on your newest book, Jocelyn! I can’t wait to read it. Great idea to preserve your little darlings in another document. I’ll think of them as on vacation.

  3. Good idea to gave a place to keep the sentences, chunks of manuscripts you delete to use later. I have so many versions of manuscripts on a thumb drive that I could delete but don’t. Thanks for your insight and can’t wait to see your new animal book.

  4. Totally agree! Often I’ll put my darlings at the bottom of the document under a dashed line called “cut copy.” I can keep glancing here to see those words I used etc… When it gets too long, this cut copy goes into its own doc titled copy cut from title story. All the cut text that gets saved in order as it appeared in the manuscript, almost reads like a weird version of the story I am drafting. Jocelyn, I’d love to win a critique! Thank you so much for this great read. –Meagan Dekker

  5. I wish I had read this post long ago, but better late than never. From now on, I will use a holding document. So clever and practical….Thank you!

  6. Thank you, Jocelyn, for this insightful tip. I’m going to start my Holding document. It kills me to kill words or phrases that I love so much. Angst be gone!

  7. I often cut and paste them and put them at the bottom if that specific draft, but one document would make it easier to find in one spot.

  8. Such an easy step to help take away ALL THE GUILT we murderers—er, WRITERS usually feel. THANK YOU, Jocelyn! Whenever I revise, I copy and paste another copy of the last revision at the top of the doc. Then I can feel FREE to revise, knowing if I need to, I can ALWAYS go back to the older version. This also keeps all my versions in the same place, one on top of the next, for easy reference.

  9. Love this tip, Jocelyn! I do this too with PB manuscripts. Sometimes I keep them at the end of the doc under “Cut Materials” and if my CPs think they need to go back, they’ll tell me– but that doesn’t usually happen. Keeping the words in the doc makes deleting them from the manuscript a little bit easier. Thanks for the post and the funny GIFs!

  10. Oh, I love the idea of a Holding document! What a great idea. I create a copy of my document before I revise each time, so that I can find my old ‘darlings’ if I need to. I have from time to time gone back and re-used some of them in the same ms or in another WIP. Thanks for the post, Jocelyn.

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