Words are wonderful things. They have a tremendous power to produce reactions, ideas and emotions. Better yet, for those of us who write in English, we have the advantage of working with one of the richest languages in the world.
This allows us the luxury of being able to make our writing clear and sharp, painting vivid pictures for our reader’s imaginations. Unfortunately, it also means that it is very easy for laziness to make our writing mushy and vague.
In short, English is the perfect language for both the poet and the politician, able to convey the sharpest of images and to obscure meanings, sometimes both at the same time.
As writers, we must make sure that our writing is as clear as possible. This means that the first stage of editing – long before you worry about spelling mistakes or missing commas, is to go through your work word by word. Check each word carefully, and ask yourself one question – “Can my story survive without this word being there?” If the answer is yes, cut it out.
This is a painful process. I know that it is, having done it several times for my own work. The words you are cutting are invariably among those you feel are the best. To help cut down on this pain, I would strongly suggest that you should edit by creating another document, leaving your first draft intact. This means that you aren’t completely deleting those shining paragraphs, you’re just taking them out to check if the work really needs them. If necessary, they can always be returned later.
From my experience, most of the time it is better to leave them out, though.