When to just delete a whole section of your book

Cut it all

The time has come. The time for serious story surgery.

I’m looking at a chapter from much later on in my work, one that hasn’t seen daylight since the first editing run-through of the original write. While most of my book has been brought up to date with all the gradual re-writes, this one remains relatively untouched.

It’s set in a different place (jungle, villages and stuff) and the characters present have all long since had their heads and limbs and namecards sliced off and stitched back onto different people…

Sure, the mission behind the scenes are the same:
1. Bust into the joint. 2. Scope out some spare parts for the crashed ship.

Everything else is different.

The way I figure it, I can try to save the few gleaming words in this soup that, like croutons and bacon, are just calling out for me to save them.

Or, I can hack off the whole thing like the crusted sweater on a homeless guy. Better to let the rain wash everything away, and start afresh. And now that you’re all shiny, here’s a new coat, future D.R.

So that’s where I’m heading tomorrow. I’ll copy paste things into another file before I rev up the bone-saw, but basically it’s total re-write time for this chapter. After all, during editing we’re meant to cut and hack what was it, ten percent of the word count as a minimum?

Hey story, come get some *revving chainsaw sounds*

Best regards,


About D.R.Sylvester

A Clinical Research Associate by day (google it), writer by night, D.R.Sylvester lives in Sydney, Australia with his patissiere wife and Siberian Wolf. His interests include travel, music (predominantly Metal), reading, & archery.
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10 Responses to When to just delete a whole section of your book

  1. Maybe before you completely delete it it might be helpful to have someone read through your whole book to see if it fits or not? Yeah, I was working on my fanfic novel for 5 years. The difference between the beginning and where I was presently was so huge. It really needed a massive editing job. But I left fanfic a few weeks ago so it doesn’t matter at this point XD That’s part of the reason that I’m kind of waiting to start on my own original fiction novel. I don’t want the next one to take five years because my style changes so much XD My life is not very consistent right now, so short stories it is 🙂

    • I think your comments, in line with my own experiences, might be suggesting something to both of us:

      That if we want to have a coherent story, avoiding the pitfalls of pick-&-mix editing, we need to charge through it a bit faster. This doesn’t mean finishing it today, or even this month (or year), but it does mean setting some goals, and trying to hit some targets.

      Otherwise it’s like trying to catch butterflies in your living room. If you only net and release a few every day, they start to breed on the pot plants. Ten months from now they’ll still be clogging up the air conditioner, when what you want is a garden full of butterflies…

      I just realised that your net-handle subliminally inspired that rubbish analogy haha.

      Anyhow, I think you’re far more sensible than me in sticking to shorts. You can learn everything you need to learn on shorts, and the rapid fire nature of them provides more opportunities to grow. That and the fact that shorts are the bees shorts at the moment (which almost cover the bees knees). It’s the golden age of the short story apparently.

      Thanks for your thoughts as always 🙂

      • My first creative writing project was a novel XD I like to run before I’ve learned how to walk, lol. Next time I write a novel I’ll try to finish it in one year, max of 2 years. My fanfic novel was 200k when I left and 2/3 done. I had no concept of how long that was until I heard that the Great Gatsby was around 50,000. Oops XD I’ll aim for around 100,000 next time, not 300k. I’m really enjoying short stories. And I feel so accomplished after each one XD I’ve written short stories before, but they were lacking in the story element. So that’s one of the things I’m really working on, writing something interesting. My endings typically suck, so I’m looking to improve that as well 🙂

  2. backwrites says:

    Chopping is hard to start, but once you get going, it tends to pick up and get a little easier. I also copy-paste into a new file before doing major surgery, though, Makes it feel like it’s okay to make mistakes.

    • Absolutely. It gets easier and kind of fun. I always feel sad about the words lost at first, but invariably the replacements are better. I have a lot of word docs called “scraps” hehe

  3. gpeynon says:

    If ever you become a surgeon, I’ll be sure to stay away from your operating table (revving chainsaw sounds still echoing in the distance)

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