Friday, March 26, 2010

After the Edit: Using "Gallbladder" Text

When I was in college, I had a friend who developed gallbladder problems after giving birth to her first child. She had the offending organ removed and then, because one doesn’t lose body parts every day, brought it home with her in a little jar.

It served as a conversation piece for quite some time. “What is that? A mummified kiwi?” We used to ask her what she’d do if she had a hysterectomy. And I don’t want to think about how she’d have handled our family’s bout with brain surgery…

Some writers approach cutting text with the same attitude. They can’t bring themselves to permanently get rid of anything they have created. Often, this results in interesting snippets and oddities cluttering up their desktop because, though the information didn’t belong in one project, it was just too good to erase.

Now that NaNoEdMo is drawing to a close, it is quite possible that there are other writers like me who have a file folder full of “gallbladder text.” If so, here’s a kick in the butt to put it to use.

Some suggestions:

• Develop article ideas that utilize some of your longer items. You may find you simply need to add a few current nuggets of information to create salable article-length pieces.

• Compile short sidebars and blog posts of interesting factoids, trivia, or insights. Sell them to markets you have already developed OR use them to establish ties with new online venues. They can help garner new readers and fans and increase awareness of your Big Project.

• Stretch your craft. Try something new with the cut bits: develop a short story or try some flash fiction. Use the bite-sized edits to improve your hook, structure, or introduction of plot points.

• Use especially wordy, pithy, or convoluted "just bad writing" text to give a distinctive voice to a character. Often, it can be useful to help establish a speech pattern that is quite unlike your own.

Getting paid for (or, at the very least, using) words you have already wrestled onto the page always a good thing. It certainly beats printing them, pickling them, and preserving them in a jar for posterity.

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