Cutting Filler

Writing a great story isn’t just about having well-rounded characters and an amazing plot. Sometimes it’s just as important what you don’t put into your story. This goes for filler. So what is filler exactly? Filler is extraneous lines of passages in your story that don’t move the story forward or develop character. Even if you have a line you love, if it doesn’t add to your story, it’s filler and you need to cut it. Just like if you were painting a picture of a house, you wouldn’t draw the windows too big or paint one wall yellow when the rest are red. That would make the overall painting suffer. Filler is the same way.

So how can we cut filler to strengthen our stories? Let’s look at some tips.

  • Cut adjectives and adverbs. These are often extra words that don’t add much and can lead to purple prose. Use concrete nouns and stronger verbs instead.
  • Avoid clichés. Clichés are overused and don’t contribute to your writing. Instead they detract and take up space. And often times in descriptions they are vague and don’t really paint a good picture. Despite that cliché, it’s true. Craft stronger descriptions.
  • Show, don’t tell. You hear this everywhere for a reason. But remember not to travel into the realm of purple prose. It’s all about balance. For every couple of showing statements, it’s ok to have a telling statement to keep from waxing on.
  • Kill your darlings. Even if you love them. To make it easier, I keep a separate document called leftovers where I rehome anything I cut. It makes it easier to hit delete and sometimes I can rework lines into another WiP.

If you’re unsure whether something is filler or necessary, ask yourself whether it checks any of these boxes.

  • Character development. Does it add or build to your characters? And is this addition really adding to your development or just backstory? Remember it should serve the story at all times.
  • Does it develop the relationships between characters? Once again, make sure this moves the story forward and contributes to understanding.
  • Moves the plot forward. Does it create conflict and build up to the climax? If so, keep it.
  • We want to stay away from info dumps and adding too much backstory, but we also need to ground the story in a time and place. We also want our characters to interact with the world around them.
  • Is this a strong transition or just filler? Does the reader need this transition to go from one scene to the next? Quickly show passage of time or a change of location, but don’t go on too long for transitions, otherwise they become filler. Avoid paragraphs or whole scenes where nothing really happens. For example, driving to a location in a car or going through the character’s entire morning routine before a big event.

So those are some tips for cutting filler and deciding what is filler in the first place. What are your tips for cutting filler? Share below and happy writing!


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How to Deal with Writer Burnout

I decided to write about something I have been struggling with lately for today’s post, writer burnout. We all know what writer’s block is, but did you know there’s something even more serious and debilitating? From feeling completely uninspired and empty to feeling like we never want to write again, writer’s burnout is a serious setback. It comes from overworking yourself and can affect you for weeks or even months, but there are some things you can do to overcome it. Let’s take a look at some now.

  • Recognize burnout. Recognizing the problem is the first step to fixing it. So if you feel overworked and depleted of words and ideas, admit that you are experiencing burnout.
  • Remind yourself why you write. We all started writing for a reason, but it can be easy to lose sight of that, especially when we’re burned out. Make a list of the reasons why you write and read it when you’re feeling like giving up forever.
  • You may feel uninspired, but that’s the perfect reason to read. Go with an old favorite to remind yourself what good writing is, or start a new book you’ve been dying to check out. It will give you a break from thinking about writing and spark some ideas as well.
  • It’s a good idea to take a break from your WiP that has you feeling burned out. Freewriting can be great to just get the words flowing or to do a brain dump.
  • Be creative. Draw, paint, sculpt, sew, or do something else that exercises the creative part of your brain. Work those muscles.
  • Try writing in a different location. Change your scenery and see if it inspires you. Try writing outside, or try writing at a local café where you can do a little people watching.
  • Listen to calming music, meditate, exercise, or get a massage. Relieve stress and unwind.
  • Self-care. Take care of yourself. That means eating right and eating regularly. It also means getting enough sleep. When we’re worn out, it’s easy to get burned out. Take care of yourself.
  • Replenish yourself. Do things that you enjoy and that fill you up. Listen to your favorite music, do that hobby you love, binge watch your favorite show. Refill yourself.

Do these things to help you get over writer burnout faster. Being aware of the problem and how to solve it will help you to recover sooner. Just remember, burnout doesn’t last forever. So remember why you write and don’t give up! Happy writing!


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