I’ve deleted a lot of words.
I’ve left ENTIRE novels to rot on my hard drive.
I’ve re-written some of those “left to rot” novels without opening the original document. This is usually best.
I’ve cut chapters. Words. Characters. Places. Beginnings. Endings. Awkward sentences. Beautiful sentences. Soggy middles. Un-soggy middles…
I’ve re-organized and spent all day deleting and adding and then deleting and then adding… All on my way to some kind of finished product that’s worth seeing the light of day.
What’s sometimes hard to remember is that every word written, every scene, every chapter, every character, every terrible novel that I deleted, re-worked, cut, or left to rot, got me something. Several somethings:
- Helped me be a better editor.
- Gave me a more critical eye when it comes to my own work. (and WOW can this be hard)
- Helped me be unafraid to do a REAL revision instead of a patch revision (don’t shift your eyes, I think we’ve all done the “patch” revision instead of the real one – psst, they never work)
- Made me know that sometimes words, chapters, characters, threads, plots, should be left alone, and again, helped me be unafraid of starting over, of leaving things behind.
- Helped me to see those cut-able moments AS I’m writing.
- Lessened the fear of major changes in my manuscript.
The thing is – as long as we’re writing, we’re moving forward. People don’t start running and then head to a marathon. Every word we write is training. Some of those words stay. Some go. Some ideas stay. Some go. But they all help us further our writing goals, and they all get us a step closer to a finished product.
So. Next time you’re faced with the awful realization that your fav character doesn’t need to be there, or that the one super funny scene doesn’t quite fit, or that your book isn’t going to sell without a complete re-imagination, I hope you remember a few things:
- When you’re a writer, there’s no such thing as wasted words — just lots of steps that get you to your finished novel.
- There is no “right” way to start and finish a novel.
- Your process is your own.
- And there’s a reason that the phrase, “Kill Your Darlings” is so prevalent.
Jolene is an on and off literary intern, the chair for the 2018 Storymakers Conference, and a writer of both young adult and adult fiction. You can find her online HERE.