Writers love words, that is why we write. So, it follows that one of the writer's most difficult tasks is to learn how to apply the "less is more" theory. It is so easy to get caught up in language. I create what I consider a clever phrase and fall madly in love with it. It is difficult to cut it, even when it becomes painfully obvious the phrase does not match the story's tone, voice, or it simply isn't necessary.
I heard author Clint Johnson at LTUE talk about streamlining fiction. He said,
"Authors tend to be self-indulgent; we get wrapped up in our own supposed brilliance. If you want to be paid for being read, you must not make people wade through your own showing off to get to the story."
Kathleen Duey at WIFYR 2011 called it "every little blade of grass". Inexperienced writers will describe every detail until their readers are so encumbered with unimportant business that the story drags. Editors do not have time to wade through such writing indulgence, and they won't.
This is good advice but difficult to apply when those precious words are your own. I can easily spot such word indulgence--using two words to say sort of what I want instead of using one word to say exactly what I mean or the use of modifiers because I didn't use the right verb or noun to begin with. This is micro-streamlining. But macro-streamlining, the plot-related kind in which entire scenes need to be re-evaluated for their necessity, is more painful. Does every scene move the story forward? Can two scenes that serve the same purpose be combined? Is this scene self-indulgent or is it crucial to move me inexorably toward my climax?
My secret to macro-streamlining is in the re-write. I have revised many times and I have found it difficult to identify with total honesty those unnecessary sub-plots and indulgent scenes. Since I have decided to re-write my fantasy novel in the first person, the necessary scenes have come into sharp focus and the unnecessary ones have fallen to the background. Trimming the excess has only made it stronger.
I am off to re-write another chapter.