Stars aren’t only for Morningstar: How to cut your draft

Sometimes you have to limit yourself to a specific number of words when you write. This is often true when you write for someone else’s print or online publication. If your draft runs too long, and you have trouble cutting, consider starring your content as Roy Peter  Clark suggests in Help! for Writers in his chapter on “Making it Better.”

Rate each section of your content, considering its importance and interest to your readers. “Strongest sections earn a grade of three stars; the next get two; and the weakest get one star,” says Clark.

Start your cutting with the one-star sections. Depending on how many words you need to lose, you may achieve your goal by eliminating a word here and a sentence there from your one-star sections.

On the other hand, if your piece is way too long, you may need to delete all of your one-star material and start hacking at your two-star material.

Does this approach seem helpful to you? I haven’t used it because I usually cut based on what my gut tells me to do. Still, I can see how it might help writers without this instinct.

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