When I go back to edit – having found that I can go no further until I do – I am clarifying for myself the situation I have set up.
I clear away unnecessary junk, and by doing that, begin to be able to see where my protagonist is, who he or she is.
And I begin to see the setting that this person is working in or running through, or fighting in.
I begin to see things that I haven’t noticed before – most especially discrepancies. Winter is coming on (I took out a reference to winter coming on) – but how far through autumn is the character in the setting? There is a noise – is it a cricket chirruping (I took out a reference to an insect chirruping) – is it spring, after all? Or is it a bird flapping away from the scene?
The character is alone – I read somewhere that you are throwing away opportunities – of speech and engagement – if you have your character alone – better to set up the character with someone else.
But I feel strongly that the character in this story (or beginning of a story) should be alone – from that, maybe more menace is created.
But I know that the character – yes, she will need to meet someone else at some point.
Who could that be?
Also, though, by taking note of which details I discard and which I keep – I try to discard some, and then add them in again upon reading – I begin to see which snippets of description, for instance, will finally add to the plot – this character wore a fine-wool blanket that she used as a cloak – did it matter that it was fine-wool? She wrapped herself in her cloak, then. No. The fine-wool, along with the cheese and the few strips of meat – suggestive of a natural way of life, but with some technologies maybe still available; therefore, maybe other technologies lost.
It’s a way of building up the story – and there are also metaphorical considerations of ‘fine-wool’.