You hear about foods considered to be healthy fats (avocados, walnuts etc.) and though it sounds like an oxymoron, they really do exist. If only milk chocolate could be part of that list! Some people think any kind of fat is bad and avoid even the healthy kind. Silly if you ask me but to each his own. Especially since I love me some avocado!
I know you might think I'm nuts when I say this but this I see some similarities with writing and fat. Crazy huh?
If you've been writing for more than a week you are likely familiar with the phrase "cut the fat," meaning, cut out the words/scenes/characters you don't need. Lord knows I had plenty of fat to cut. And boy did I go on a diet. I lost about 35,000 words! Yeah - if only a real diet were that easy right?
Some of what I cut I consider good fat, healthy fat. Again, I might sound nuts here but hear me out. There are of course the bad fats - excess adjectives, tags, commas and that sort of thing. Which must be cut in order for a book to be written properly. But what about all that other stuff like back story, characters that don't do much to move the plot along, excess thoughts from your main character or entire scenes that sound pretty but mean nothing? Well, I happen to think they can be called healthy fat. They are beneficial. No, really, I believe that.
I made a lot of cuts during my first edit, my second and even my fifth and most current one (thanks to my writing circle and advice of an agent) and my story is slimmed up and looking hotter than ever. But that fat had its place. Something I'm only now realizing. It helped me get a firm grasp on my story and characters. I needed that fat to get to the important parts. That fat played a major role in getting my story to where it is now. I love that fat, though I don't miss it one bit, it certainly served its purpose.
I'm currently writing the follow up to my first book and while I've learned a lot since then I'm still letting the fat accumulate. Think of it as some winter weight, extra pounds you pack on over the holidays. I've got to let myself go in this stage and write what I feel, not skimp or fuss. That's what editing and revisions are for. Now the true test is knowing what fat needs to go. There's nothing wrong with writing chapters of back story if that helps you find your starting point but you must learn to spot it, chop it and leave it behind.
Embrace the healthy fat, indulge in a little back story, add a character that does nothing to move the story along if they help you understand your MC, write a a few paragraphs about a meal they eat. Just be sure to let go when the time comes to let go. Cut and paste all that good fat into a new document and save it in the archives. Someday when you're a big famous author your fans will come to adore it. I LOVE seeing outtakes from books. And what are they really? Healthy fat!