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Writing and Publishing

Watch Out For That

I heard an author mention her memoir—weighing in at 103,000 words—was too long and she needed to shorten it.

The first thing she did was the search for all occurrences of the word “that.” By removing their unnecessary appearances in her manuscript she cut a thousand words—or about one percent—from her book.

Although she still had a long way to go in her book’s weight-loss plan, a thousand-word reduction just by removing the extraneous inclusions of “that” is significant.

I’ve since put my work on a “low-that” diet, too. And I’m shocked at how often I thoughtlessly pop “that” in when there’s no need to do so. Of course, we do need some “that” in our writing, so a “no-that” diet would be bad, but most writers could benefit by drastically limiting their use of “that.”

I know I can.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Why You Should Save Writing That You Don’t Use

Last week I shared my dismay over not saving all of my past work. Our past writing has potential value—be it for personal edification or for future projects—but in order to tap that value, we need to keep it.

Taking that thought one step further, I also see the need to save our writing that we don’t use. When we cut something from our “work-in-progress” (WIP), it could become useful later:

  • A cut character could be the basis for our next novel, a novella, or a short story.
  • A cut scene could become a short story.
  • A cut section from a non-fiction work could later be adapted into an article or a blog post.
  • Of course, there is always the possibility that what we have just cut may need to be added back later.

This also applies to abandoned projects. Sometimes I start an article, but it’s just not working out, so I stop before wasting any more time. A few years ago I published “Going From Good to Better” in Connections Magazine. I wrote—and abandoned—the first two paragraphs of that piece some five years before that, but it took half a decade for the rest to come into being. I’m glad I kept it.

I also make a point of saving emails containing significant messages. These could be useful content for a future non-fiction work or memoir – or if someone asks the same question again.

So save all of your writing, including everything you cut. One day you’ll be glad you did.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.