lionheart191 asked: When you finish a story, whether it be a novel or a short story, how do you decide what stays in the story and what doesn't? I find it hard when I start the editing process, because there will be times in certain moods where I really like something, and in others where I just want to eradicate it from existence.
I look askance at big blocks of prose. Those are places where attention wanders and the reader’s excitement begins to cool. I don’t care how good a sentence might be… we’ve got to keep moving. Hemingway said kill your darlings, but I try not to have darlings at all, and kill at will.
This is probably not terribly helpful. But I guess try and find one sentence in every paragraph that says the thing the reader needs to know to get to the next paragraph. Then see about deleting everything else. Maybe you can’t delete everything else. But you’d be shocked at how much can go.
There were a lot of sentences in Max Berry’s LEXICON that gave me an electric shock of pleasure. One was just: “A thin dog scratched in the dirt.” That was enough to show me a whole dusty, sandy, barren landscape of trailers, cars on cinder blocks, empty sidewalks, loneliness. One little sentence that carried a whole widescreen picture.
Try and find that thin dog, and skip everything else.