Tuesday, August 6, 2013
From the Cut File
Here’s a simple trick I thought I’d share with my fellow writers out there: keep a dedicated delete file for your writing project(s), called a cut file.
What's a cut file?
Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. A place for you to store discards from your writing.
How do you set up a cut file?
Whenever I start a new project, I create a folder under My Documents. (Or whatever your Apple/Ubuntu/Insert OS Here equivalent is.) That folder usually contains several documents—the main body of the work itself, a document for brainstorming/outlining/notes, and then the cut file.
For shorter works, I have a combined cut file. Obviously, not every short story and poem needs its own cut file, so I combine all my short story and poetry cuts into a single document.
What do you put in this cut file?
As you’re writing/editing, you can cut and paste discards into this file—sentences that don’t work, passages that have gone veering off in the wrong direction, even entire scenes. During the editing process, I have found the cut file to be invaluable. It’s the equivalent of the old cutting room floor in film . . .
Damn, I’m showing my age. Fine—for you kids, it’s like the deleted scenes. You get the idea.
Repetition? Cut file it. Got something unnecessary? Cut file. Something that seemed absolutely brilliant when you wrote it, but not so much now? Cut file that shiz.
Why keep a cut file?
If you’ve ever written something, deleted it, and then regretted it, you’ll know why. Sometimes you delete something and decide afterwards that your original word choices worked better after all. But good like trying to recreate it. Sometimes you cut a whole scene, but find that there are parts of it that can be incorporated into other parts of the book. Waste not, want not.
I’ve been doing it for so long, I set up my projects this way automatically. I don’t even think about it anymore. But apparently, it’s something fairly unique. My esteemed co-author, Coyote Kishpaugh, first mentioned to me a few weeks backs that I was the first writer he’d ever met who did this.
Intrigued by the notion that I might’ve done something original, I started asking around at open mike nights. No one else I’ve talked to does this either, but they all thought it was pretty cool. I hope you do too.