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Monday, May 02 2011

One of the women in my writing group had her gall bladder unexpectedly taken out last week and it got me thinking. In some ways, the surgery is a lot like trimming your text in writing (except the surgery involves a lot more pain and medication - at least you'd think so).

I mean, here you have an organ that's been a part of the overall system for a long time. You don't really think about it. The gall bladder just does its job and hangs around in the background. Until one day, when BAM! It goes crazy and you suddenly find yourself at the hospital, having it removed. What happened? Did the rest of your body change and the gall bladder couldn't keep up? Had it always had issues and you didn't know until the problem became more obvious? Who knows? All you know for sure is that the doctor declares your gall bladder a lost cause and insists on taking it out.

And so it goes with writing. You might write a sentence, giving it about as much thought as you do your gall bladder, and move on to the next sentence. There's nothing wrong with the previous sentence. It serves its purpose with little fanfare, happily nestled between two other sentences to make a benign paragraph. And then BAM! One day you discover the sentence simply doesn't work anymore. Maybe you've written enough of the story after that sentence to realize that it sounds funny or is no longer accurate. Maybe the sentence wasn't really that great to start with but you needed to step away for a fresh perspective. No matter what the cause, the sentence has to go, much like the gall bladder.

But it can be hard to remove entire sentences, regardless of how small a role they play in the story. How will the cut impact the paragraph? Is there some seemingly trivial bit of information in the sentence that is really more crucial to the story than is realized? What if I take it out and then later want it back? Just like you have to wonder how important the gall bladder is. The fact that it's part of the body to start with would imply that it has some level of importance. What if the doctor takes it out and it impacts how the rest of the body works?

But with a little time, the body will readjust and learn how to function without a gall bladder, much like the paragraph and ultimately the story will still work after removing the sentence. It might not be exactly the same, but with any luck, the story will end up better. And one day, you'll forget the sentence was ever there, just like my friend's gall bladder.

Posted by: Staci McLaughlin AT 11:22 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email

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