Lucinda Elliot

On Jettisoning 40,000 words and Quotes from Famous Writers




It was horrible, but there was nothing else for it.

I have just had to jettison about 40,000 words of my latest. I had hoped to be in the last stages of publishing it next month; now with the re-writing, it is going to be delayed by six months at least.

I wasn’t happy with it. I thought it was fairly good, but not good enough. If a writer thinks that about his/her work, then given that most readers are going to be far more critical, it is a  fairly bad sign.

I have never thrown out so many words before. I think I jettisoned 25,000 words for The Villainous Viscount and 15,000 for Where Worlds Meet and maybe an average of 10,000 for the others. But come to think of it, there’s some comfort in the fact that I did write about four drafts of That Scoundrel Émile Dubois.

I was always dubious about the scene that led on to all the others that I had to jettison. Ah yes, it was funny, if I say so myself; but it didn’t lead in the right direction. I should have analysed the problems I was having at that point, instead of wading on, getting into worse difficulties with the plot mechanisms. I think you often know the exact point at which you went wrong .

In this one, it was approximately halfway through the book. In another words, I fell a victim to that dreaded ‘sagging middle’. That is notoriously the most difficult part to write, and it caught me in a quagmire of flabbiness.   I should have pondered on that writing advice about ‘Writing from the Middle’ by James Scott Bell which I read a year or so back.

I have images of Stonehenge in this post because this latest work (late indeed!) does feature thhe magical influence of Stonehenge, and also, a ring which is fasionened from those famous stones.

And on learning from experience, here are some useful bits of advice from well known writers.

“ In order to write about life first you must live it.” – Ernest Hemingway

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” ― Terry Pratchett

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”  Louis L’Amour

“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”— Stephen King

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.” — Franz Kafka

There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt” ~ Erma Bombeck, Forever, Erma: Best-Loved Writing From America’s Favorite Humorist

“There’s nothing on Earth like really nailing the last line of a big book. You have 200 pages to tickle their fancy, and seven words to break their heart.” ~ Alex de Campi

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”  ― Octavia E. Butler

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ― Anton Chekhov

‘Listen very carefully to the first criticism of your work. Note just what it is about your work that the reviewers don’t like; it may be the only thing in your work that is original and worthwhile. ‘ –  John Irving.

My thanks to these websites from which I have made use of the quotes.




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