Monday, March 17, 2008

Writing Maturity

Sufferin' succotash!

Four pages, single spaced, written on Sunday afternoon. Approximately three of those pages will have to be dumped.


I should have listened to my inner voice. I should have stopped and reevaluated where the scene needed to go. I should have taken a nap instead. (And I really should have quit eating all those Cadbury Mini Eggs...) But no....I kept at it.

This could be a tragedy, but I'm not going to look at it as one. Instead, it's an opportunity - an opportunity to learn and heed that inner voice. More often than not, it knows when a scene is wrong, whether it doesn't advance the story, is written from the wrong POV, or doesn't have the right punch to it that it needs.

There's always the urge, though, to keep what I wrote as part of the book because it means I'm that much closer to finishing the book. Thank goodness I'm not going to give in to the urge. Oh, I'll still print out the pages and file them away for perhaps another time in the story, but right now, they're going to go bye-bye on the ol' hard drive.

This, to me, is a mark of maturity in my writing life. There were times before where I would keep the offending scene in the story and make the rest of the novel work, no matter how many twists and turns I had to make. I wasn't going to delete that many pages, darn it, because that meant I'd wasted that much time.

Now, I recognize it's not time wasted - it's time spent learning a lesson. And because I wrote this scene, I figured out the scene I should have wrote instead - and I also learned more about my character.

I look at this as a good thing. But gosh, I hope it doesn't happen too often!


  1. Melissa, what a great post. This happens to me all the time--especially when starting a new novel. It's also taken a long time for me to recognize that it's not wasted effort, but instead, part of the process. The maturity comes, as you say, from recognizing in short order that the scene doesn't work--rather than struggling with and around it for weeks and months. (Been there, done that...)

  2. Yep, learning when to dump something and actually DO it is so hard, but so important for the writing process. I know the first few times I did it, I felt physically ill. But now I can cut and slash with the best of 'em. Though, admittedly, SOME of it goes into a cut file, just in case *g*.

  3. I can relate to this experience perfectly and I love the expression "killing your darlings" -- you know, those paragraphs and bits of writing that you just love but know don't belong? I know I tend to overwrite in early drafts, but I consider it all part of the process. For example, I frequently go into far too much back story in order to establish a character and then realize that it was me who needed to learn about the back story, but the reader doesn't need to slog through all that. I've learned to trust that no writing is every wasted. Good for you!

  4. Christine - Oh, how I can relate to the weeks and weeks of trying to get the darn scene to work! I think it's just an incredible loathing to let any of the words go when you've worked so hard for them. :-)

    Tess - Oh yes, I have a 'cut' file, too. I never throw anything away!

    Lisa - I think that's exactly what I did this time around - delved into the backstory of my characters. It was something I obviously needed to figure out, but not something my readers need to slog through! ;-)

  5. Mine all go into the "outtakes" file. As if I could use them again :) An well, it makes me feel better than to just hit the delete key.

    And, yes, I've done the same thing. Not listened to my inner voice saying This is NOT right!

  6. Yep, your inner voice *always* knows best. I took 4 (four!) whole chapters out of my last one. It pained me to do it, but the book was much stronger without them.

  7. I hate having to kill the little darlings, but you're right - sometimes you just have to bite the bullet. I'm experiencing a lot of that doing the last of the revisions for Brimstone. Sigh...

  8. It's not time wasted anyway. It's keeping your writing muscle limbered up. And your editing muscle.

  9. Ugh. I hear you. Sometimes letting the words just come is a good thing though :)

  10. Kacey - I have the same type of file. I wonder if we'll ever dig into those dusty archives and use them again for a new novel? Never know, I guess.

    Shirley, four chapters? OUCH. That would have been hard to cut!

    Kelly - It is incredibly hard to bite the bullet - I'm trying to do that this afternoon, though - get rid of these pages and start out fresh.

    Diane, you are so right. It does keep the writing muscle in shape!

    Yep, Toni, I think I needed to write these four pages, even if I can't use them - it was good to let the words flow.


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