'Cut,' I tell students. 'It's one of the finest ways of editing. Challenge everything. Take out words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs and see if the writing is improved by the absence.'
Teaching writing to others does help your own. Preparing Edna O'Brien's short story 'Paradise' for a seminar, a story of my own was triggered. It follows four men on a boat journey out from Sutton Harbour here in Plymouth (pictured above). I've just spent a merry couple of hours chopping away at it, moving sections around, slicing off pieces here and there. It will be cleaner and better for the process, with much more to follow.
I was cheered at the weekend by news from Brian McCabe, editor of The Edinburgh Review, that they had accepted my story 'Letters to the Parishioners' for their next issue. It's a long story, following a priest as he heads off in the footsteps of St Paul. The original consisted of four letters. An editorial to and fro saw it trimmed back to three. I prefer the sleeker version. Cut, cut, cut ... it's not a bad mantra, if you produce something long to work at in the first place.