The Craft of Cutting
Learning the craft of cutting your writing down is difficult. Here you've put hundreds of hours (yesterday, on Pawn Stars I learned it takes 372 hours on average to write a novel! I believe it!) into pouring your heart and soul into this piece, and you need to cut it. The reason doesn't really matter. Maybe your editor thinks it's too long. Maybe a certain section isn't jiving with you. Maybe it just needs to be tighter overall. You're still faced with the same problem: Finding what to cut, and knowing how much.
After I finished The Blackout, I had over 10,000 words I'd taken out. I cut everything from whole scenes to entire characters. If I'd left them in, it would've been a much more substantial novel as far as size goes. However, I chose quality over quantity.
Most recently, I took a whole chapter out of The Cure. It was over 2,000 words cut all at once, just like that. I decided it wasn't realistic with the way the story was going up to that point, so I took it out. It was very difficult to do, since I had myself on a tight schedule with that book, and didn't want to set myself back 2,000 words. But, it was the right thing to do. Inconsistencies of content are a sure fire way to earn 1 star reviews, and rightfully so.
Bleeding it without killing it, like leeches in the old days
So, how do I part with the words? I usually have a period of mourning for a day or two. During this time, I pout. With my personality, I have to allow myself the pouting period in order to reach a productive stage. It's something I know and have come to accept about myself. Sometimes, allowing yourself to indulge in your less admirable qualities can be surprisingly productive.
Then, I suck it up and really start to think about what's right for the specific piece I'm working on, and what direction it is currently going, and where it could potentially if I cut it. Is the piece stronger without this section? Are there more options as far as where to take the characters? Would cutting solve any major issues with the piece (inconsistencies, weak characters, story lines that are too complex, etc.)?
My Stuffed Bunny Safety Net
Once I've answered these questions, I'm done mourning the loss of my words, and am ready to slash and burn. However, to make myself feel better I create a seperate document with the title of whatever I'm working on followed by "cut content." That way, the words are always there to come back to - like that stuffed bunny you had when you were a kid, that now sits in your closet. She's tattered and worse for the wear, but somehow still warm and inviting, ready if you should ever need to go back to her. Anyway, that document is like that. Who knows, you might end up hating how it reads without that section, and having that safety net allows you to easily retrieve everything. However, I have to say, I've never needed my stuffed bunny safety net, at least not when it comes to writing. Generally speaking, it's always better with revision.
Avoiding diarrhea of the keyboard
Cutting is a vital tool you should keep in your writer's toolbox (reference Steven King's On Writing for what else should be in your tool box). You can't just sit down and have diarrhea of the keyboard and expect to have a bestseller on your hands. More likely you'll have a grade A turd. Learning to cut just makes your turd polish more effective. So, get out your scissors and get cutting!