Take Out the Trash

Outtakes 300

Take Out the Trash

By Cait Collins


Our office is about to undergo some serious renovations. In an effort to reduce work stoppage, we are being moved to another campus in town. As our new space is limited, we have been instructed to remove our personal items and go through our files and storage and eliminate as much paper as possible. I took personal items home the first week. As I order supplies for our team, I helped sort the supply storage. It just needs to be packed. Now I’m in the process of cleaning out my files.

I appalled at the “stuff” I’ve held on to. For example, I retained copies of every performance evaluation since I was hired. Every course completion certificate was safely stored in a series of file folders. Old faxes also took up space in the two file drawers. Needless to say, I’m taking out the trash before I move this week.

Editing is probably the most difficult step in the writing process. Editing is more than checking spelling and punctuation. It’s also taking out the trash in the story. Do you have a minor character that’s just a talking head? One that really provides no substance for the story? Get rid of him. You have a beautiful scene, but it doesn’t help move the story. No problem. Paste it into your file of “do not lose” scenes and move on. Every character, every scene, all dialogue must support and build the story. We have no room for place holding in our work. Nothing should remain that doesn’t move the story to the climax and resolution.

Words are important. Scenes are important. Characters are essential. Just make sure they are an asset to the work. Non-essentials go out with the trash.

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