Wednesday, November 18, 2015

5 Reasons Why Writers Must Overcome the Pain of Deletion

by Katy Kauffman @KatyKauffman28

I get attached to the words I write. Do you?

One of the hardest things about editing books is deleting sentences, paragraphs, and even whole pages. 

It’s not easy to string words and ideas together, so why go through the pain of deleting them? Our words are our “babies.” 

But the time comes when you have to consider whether every word is vital to a sentence, whether every sentence is needed, and whether every paragraph helps a chapter to be the best it can be. 

So maybe I can smooth the inner turmoil a bit. 

Here are some reasons why deleting is necessary to make our writing better.

1. Unnecessary words distract from your main point. 
Don’t let unneeded words distract the reader from the heart of your message. You may like a certain rabbit trail or want to include an extra illustration, but consider whether it will help your point or hinder it. See whether every word is serving a useful purpose. If you can delete a word or sentence and find that you’re not missing something important, it needs to go! Tight writing makes for excellent reading.

Too many words in a sentence can hurt
the musicality of your writing
2. Too many words in a sentence can hurt the musicality of your writing.
Although it’s good to mix long and short sentences, too many long sentences can sound monotonous in the mind of the reader. You don’t want your sentences to sound burdened and weighed down. Remember that the words you write become a song for your reader to hear, so select words that add lyricism to your writing and delete words that muffle the melody.    

3. Your book may need to start on a different page or in a different chapter.
Sacrilege, right?! I found that Introductions are the hardest to write. Stay open to the possibility that the best place to start your book may not be on page 1. Since the beginning of a book needs to be as snappy and attention-getting as possible, I’ve found that it may be necessary to delete some paragraphs or pages to jump into the book’s message. Receiving feedback from a writers group or an impartial friend will help you to know whether your book starts at the right spot.

Your writing is more about what the reader needs to hear
rather than what you need to say.
4. Your writing is more about what the reader needs to hear rather than what you need to say.
Writing is definitely therapy for the soul, but a book shouldn’t be our personal venting platform. God can work through our joys and troubles and speak to others. We just need to know how much to divulge. We can take the lessons we’ve learned and share them with our readers, and perhaps they will reach their own “aha” moment when the truth of God clicks in their minds and hearts. Remembering our purpose in writing—to encourage, strengthen, or instruct—will help us to know what to include and what to leave out.

5. The reader will never know what was deleted. 
Did that one make you smile? We may agonize over what needs to be left out, but the reader will never know about our agony. Hopefully, what they read will be a heartfelt, prayed-over, edited and re-edited version of what we want to share with them. The published work will have so much love, insight, and wisdom poured into it, that the reader will be blessed. Much more than if they had read our first draft. A book improves with editing, prayer, and even deletion.

So take heart, my writer friend! The words you write are precious, and the words you leave in your book are even more so. They will speak to the reader, play a song in their head, and touch their heart.

When you delete something from your writing, do you find it a burden or a relief? What types of things do you tend to delete more than others? Share your thoughts below, and don’t forget to join the conversation!


Katy Kauffman is an award-winning writer and a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies, a ministry which seeks to connect people to God through His Word. 

She has taught the Bible to women and teens, and has two published Bible studies for women, 2 Timothy: Winning the Victory and Faith, Courage, and VictoryShe is an editor of the new Refresh Bible Study Magazine and the designer of Broken but Priceless: The Magazine. She makes her home near Atlanta, Georgia.


  1. Katy, I love that you equate music to writing, because you're so right! And my very first critique group taught me to delete. Oh, did they teach me. lol I cut a 125K word manuscript down to a trim 85K. And it didn't hurt a bit! Well, not after a while, but the first few did. :o) But the work was much better for the trimming. Good post!

    1. Thank you, Ane! That was quite a trim down. You probably took that process much better than I would have. My editor had to do some convincing with me, but I see the worth in it now! :) I believe when we see writing as composing music, it makes the process of editing easier to handle and more likeable. Thank you for your comments!

  2. Thank you for this. When I write a sentence or statement that I fall in love with and cannot use it in the specific book, article or blog I save it. Prayer is the most important part of writing. Thank you for reminding me.

    1. Cherrilynn, I am glad you brought up saving lines that we like. I also save paragraphs that I like but can't use at the moment. Great idea to share!

  3. Wonderful info, Katy! Some of your statements are so good I may have to quote you. Love, love, love this one: "Tight writing makes for excellent reading." :)

    1. Thank you for quoting! I'm glad you liked the post. :)

  4. This is perfect. I've always been the kind of writer that actually enjoys the process of deleting words, because in doing so is like cleaning a messy bedroom. ;) It does get hard at times, though, so thank you for these reminders!


    1. Thank you, Tessa! I have never thought of cleaning up a manuscript like cleaning up a room. But it works! I will have to remember that next time I edit something long. It will help!

  5. Thank you for the elucidating post, Katy. In my case, I write plenty to go around and have no trouble deleting words, paragraphs, or entire pages. Point #4 is the most important for me to remember. Keeps me on the straight and narrow...

    1. Thank you for sharing, Linda! I think poetry is a good way to express ourselves when we need some emotional venting. So point #4 would help us to stay on the straight and narrow as you say.