Cut, Cut, Cut, and Another Review of “Sarging Rasmussen”

Well, today is not a particularly interesting day: I spent much of it cutting text.

(I’ll spend the rest of it on laundry, steaming my floors with my new steamer vacuum, probably watching the remaining two-thirds of the Bollywood film Krrish, maybe having a coffee with the espresso machine that arrived today to replaced my previous, broken machine, and avoiding seed fruit, nuts, brown rice, and beans–because I’ve have an upset digestive system for most of the time since I got back from Indonesia, and am going to go to the hospital Monday morning to undergo, yes, basically the same thing alien abductees claim to undergo, but with video footage of the largely unexplored interior available on request. Wish me luck…)

But to return to more pleasant stuff — that is, the cutting of verbiage from text–it is, as any writer knows, quite useful and interesting up to a point, even with an academic text. Then one finds oneself faced with a length-limit that threatens to rob the text of important nuances, sophisticated tangents, and illustrative examples. At this point, it becomes a case of pulling teeth as one attempts to remove just enough to leave the meaning intact for an astute reader, and rails against the cutting even as one does so.

Murder your darlings, fiction writers advise, and it really does feel that way sometimes. In a couple of extended sessions, I’ve reduced a paper that was over 11,000 words long to 8, 130 words — that is, approximately 130 words above the length limit for this paper. Which, incidentally, is the piece on the Singularity and SF/speculative nonfiction (discussing Vinge and Kurzweil, mostly) which I delivered at that MMLA Conference in November last year. I received an email last week requesting the final version of all papers from that conference by the end of this month, as “the Fall issue of the journal publishes the papers presented at the previous year’s convention.” While I don’t know if the paper stands a chance of being published in the associated journal, I wouldn’t mind it seeing print, and so I have been cutting it down to length.  Not during the week, when I was busy with other things, but on the weekends. No rest for the wicked, I guess.

This cutting is making it a better paper, I realize, and that recognition has convinced me that setting hared length-limits for editing all my future writing–most especially fiction–could probably result in a sharp uptick in the quality of my output–not that I don’t edit my work, but having a length limit somehow can spur one to new levels of verbal invention or creativity in expression.

Still, for now, I am at 130 words to cut. A footnote here, an bit of detail in an example there, I know, but I have hit my daily limit for trimming. I’ll have to sit down and spend an hour (or, hopefully, less) on it tomorrow.

Speaking of my fiction, Charles Tan had very nice things to say about “Sarging Rasmussen” here, going so far as to call it “optimistic science fiction done right,” among other very flattering comments. Excuse my while I go blush to death.

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