Spring Cleaning

It’s pretty much Spring, aside from the 10″ of snow we got yesterday in the storm. I’ve been waiting for Spring to break through so I can open all my windows and clean the winter staleness out of my apartment. One of the most dreaded places to clean for nearly any woman is their purse.

Ladies, how long does it take you to find something in your purse? Way too long?

Yesterday, I dug around in my purse for my car key to run an errand. Millions of mental notes confirm that my car key goes in the front pocket, but sometimes it ends up in the back pocket, or worse, inside the center. Well, I didn’t find it, because I stuffed the key in my coat pocket. We have those days.

But what I did find in my purse that day was my cell phone, my work cell phone, my wallet, checkbook, tons of crumpled receipts, doctor appointment cards for dates past and dates future, a sea of change accumulating in the front pocket, my house keys, my chapstick I must forever have on me, a pill case stuffed with meds and Tylenol and Pepto “just in case,” an empty pill jar, a blue pen, a red pen (? I didn’t even know I owned one), my work badge, a hair clip, a flash drive, a pair of earring I forgot I put in there, a hole punch and tape measure that I threw in there from work a few weeks ago that I forgot I had, an empty bottle of hand sanitizer, a bottle of lotion, a coffee card that I can’t use, because I gave up caffeine months ago, and an unfilled prescription.

I remember pulling out the hole punch and going “Why do I have that in here? I’ve been carrying this around for how long?” And then I thought about it as I jingled my purse, the change clanging in the bottom.

When I first started seeing a chiropractor and a massage therapist for my shoulder problems two years ago, they both asked me “how heavy is your purse?”  Just last week, I grumbled when my boyfriend handed me his wallet and phone to put in my purse when we went into a restaurant. I’ve been back in physical therapy for a month, so I complained about the extra weight. It made me laugh, as I stood there, holding the hole puncher. I griped about his wallet and phone, and here I was carrying around a frickin hole punch and tape measure for two weeks.

What else didn’t I need? I never use the lotion in my purse, because I have a bottle at home and one at work. I only use my checkbook on Saturday mornings to pay bills. I never look at receipts again after I get them (except groceries, which go in a container on the counter anyway). Earrings? Flash drive? Hair clip? An empty pill jar? Did I really need to take my meds with me? I have Tylenol and my Crohn’s meds in my desk at work, too. And my change jar is right next to the spot I keep my purse at home.

Really, I’m just hurting myself with all this junk. ANd for what reason? Just in case. That’s it. Just in case I have a headache where I can’t get Tylenol. Just in case I need my checkbook. Just in case I need lotion. Truth it, I never do.

What about you? How much junk are you keeping in your MS? Keeping up with #PitchMadness this week, I’m seeing a lot of #TagOrPass comments about book length. Most of which are way too long.

My CP asked me the other week to kill a character. Not, you know, murder, or anything, but to take her completely out of the MS. She’s Miss Oliver, the 28 year-old painting instructor with a sunshine smile and a penchant for recycling junk into jewelry. Miss Oliver is a fully fleshed out, interesting character. Just what we want in our work, right?

“What’s her purpose?” My CP asked me.

“Ummm. She’s the painting teacher in the most important class in the story.”

“Right, but does she lend to the action by doing anything else other than tell the MC where Hazel’s studio is?”

“….. no….”

“Kill her.”

I had a whole scene devoted to her character, introducing her and showing off her personality. Mostly I did it to foil against her assistant, Hazel, a super important character who’s pretty much a jerk and a sourpuss all the time. But I didn’t need it. My MC already created the foil for Hazel, and every Beta reader has long hated him by that point in the story. Exactly what I wanted.

In killing that several-page scene, I not only lessened my word count, but now there’s room to add important details in other places. Or maybe a scene to develop a different character, an important character, that I may not have dwelled enough on.

So why are you carrying certain scenes, characters, or even mini plot-lines in your MS just in case? They might be good, yes, but are they necessary? Probably not. Really think about each piece in your story, and ask yourself if it progresses the action and conflict. Sometimes the unnecessary clogs or hinders the important things from getting completely brought out. You and your MS will both feel lighter.

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