Get out the bin bags!
Recently I held a yard sale with a neighbour. I love chucking things out, which is always a bit of a worry for the rest of my family. My neighbour’s house is bursting at the seams and she ended up having to employ someone to go through her mountains of junk with her. She wailed and wrung her hands while Aggie filled bin bag after bin bag with old coffee perculators.
I think the same part of the brain is involved when a manuscript needs decluttering. If yours gets longer rather than shorter when you’re editing I would hazard a guess that your home is a tip as well. Remember Dr Casaubon in Middlemarch who became so lost in his research for the Key to all Mythologies that he mouldered away like a fruit rotting on the branch?
Don’t let your manuscript become overgrown: snip-snip, chop-chop. Keep your plot moving, with every scene relating to your main theme, goal, or question, and cut out unnecessary adverbs, adjectives, and other weeds which are obscuring the shape of your story.
Wanda Whiteley, former Publishing Director at HarperCollins, is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Manuscriptdoctor.co.uk, a literary consultancy