Monday, 4 June 2012

Trimming Off The Fat

Now dear readers, I’m going to paint a descriptive martial arts picture for you and then make a tenuous link with writing.  Bear with me, it will make sense in the end. 

I recently had my first live MMA experience.  For those who don’t know, it stands for ‘Mixed Martial Arts’ or cage fighting.  This involves men (and sometimes women) getting into an octagon shaped ring and then beating the crap out of each other.  Now for you middle-class liberal types, you may be a bit ‘isn’t it all a bit barbaric because I read The Guardian’ but I’m a bit more working-class-made-good-with-a-degree type, and the way I see it, at least they do it there and not out on the street. 

I’ve seen a bit of UFC (Ultimate Fighting Champion) which is a top professional league.  It mostly involves pumped-up men with shaved heads wearing very small shorts getting sweaty and rolling around the ground getting tangled up with each other.  It is all very macho, which makes me think it veers a bit on the D H Lawrence side.  Yes, I do mean that wrestling scene with Oliver Reed and Alan Bates – you draw your own conclusions.  Anyway, I saw a less professional version at a martial arts expo in London.  Where the men in UFC have upper bodies you could bounce pennies off, here, they were, err, less so.  Some were lean and with tattoos (I have come to the conclusion that to win at MMA, the bigger the tattoos the better) but some were on the chubby side with a bit of a pot belly and bouncing man-boobs.  Imagine that flopping around the octagon arena, it wasn’t pretty.
Now some of these hairy-bouncing-moob types were skilled fighters and were more agile than you would expect - don’t worry, the writing link is coming soon - but to be honest, they just didn’t look as good.  That’s when I had a bit of a light-bulb moment - it’s a bit like writing!  You need to cut the carbs, get on the treadmill and send your writing to the gym.  The beauty of your work comes through in the editing.  It’s about cutting out the fat.  Get rid of that extraneous fluff, the repetition and unnecessary detail to make the real story shine through.

I recently had my story ‘Two Penny Blue’ professionally edited and it was worth every penny.  I knew the story needed a bit of work but I had done as much as I could with it and it was time to cough up and hand it over to get it copy-edited.  It came back with really positive feedback but it had been trimmed; the repetition had been cut, sentences shaved and it was just much, much sharper.  I learned a lot from that and I’ll be applying it to my other work as well.  There is a lot of pressure on indie-writers to produce work to the same standard as the traditional, large publishing houses with their in-house copy-editors.  Of course we want to create books that are of a high standard and getting work edited is a good way to do this but there is the cost and not all of us can afford it.  So my advice is, if you can, get it professionally copy-edited, if you can’t, give your work that extra layer of editing to cut out what you don’t need.  You’ll be surprised at how effective it can be. 

My freshly edited short story ‘Two Penny Blue’ will be free to download on the weekend beginning Friday 8th June.  It’s been to the gym and had a jolly good workout, no wobbly bits guaranteed!

And for some very efficient and professional editing, visit Olivia Wood at  


  1. couldn't have said it better. We often think of the first draft as the skeleton, the next couple of redrafts as adding the muscles, tendons, the gooey bits and the fleshy parts. Then the editing is putting it on a strict diet and exercise routine until it is whipped into shape. It's surprising how much an editor can help, as we found out with our novel. Good luck with the new version of Two Penny Blue

  2. I agree too, and like clraven's description of the writing process. :) I spent some of today editing my 2nd novel and boy was I surprised at how poor it is in places. Some of this is just silly types and pasting accidents, but some it's just poor writing - and I actually thought chapters 1-3 were pretty tight. But not so. They'll all need spanking into shape, so following your advice sounds like a good idea, though I quake at the possible costs. I think I'll leave it until I've finished writing the story and got the timeline etc nailed down first though. Cheers.