Why I don't tithe my draft to the writing gods

I talk a lot about writing process here. My writing process, to be exact, as this is my blog, and if I were to start talking about someone else's writing process that would probably be both factually inaccurate, and a little creepy. ("What are you doing, Kat?" "Oh, nothing. Just watching you while you write.")

So usually what I talk about are the things that work for me. Today, I'm going to talk about a thing that doesn't, and the reason that I'm going to do that is because the book I am going to talk about has become ubiquitous. I've seen it mentioned by a lot of people, in glowing and laudatory terms, given such high praise that I wondered, briefly, if I was the one with the flaw because I didn't work that way.

Let me be really clear. I haven't read the book I am going to talk about. This is not a book review. The book I've seen mentioned is The 10% Solution, by Ken Rand. From what I have gathered from seeing people discuss this book, Rand advocates trimming the ten percent of prose that is unnecessary from all of your drafts. His book, as far as I can tell, is a more detailed version of the "rule" that the length of your second draft should be your first draft minus ten percent.

Now, I absolutely agree that one should avoid unnecessary prose. Sometimes you get to the end of the draft and realize that you have included information that you, as the author, needed to write, but that is not useful to your reader, or that distracts from your story. Sometimes your sentence level prose can benefit from tightening. If there were a writing book titled Delete Unnecessary Words, I would totally blurb it.

But I have never in my life wound up with a second draft that has been shorter than my first. My flaw as a writer is not the tendency to give too much information to the reader, but to give too little. The length of my second draft is usually my first draft plus twenty-five percent. If I were to cut ten percent from a first draft just because everyone else was doing it, I wouldn't have a draft, I'd have an outline. (Which is another thing that doesn't work as part of my process, just in case you were wondering.)

The purpose of this is not to disparage Rand's book, or the people who feel that using has helped them become better writers. I am in favor of anything that helps someone become a better writer.

But I want people to remember that writing is not a one-size-fits-all sort of activity. It's good to try new things, especially if you haven't been happy with how the writing has been going. But just because you find a popular solution unworkable, doesn't mean you're doing it wrong.