Thursday, January 08, 2009

If It's One Thing I Dislike About Writing...

I love updating my word count bar. I feel such a sense of satisfaction when I do. But today, that satisfaction plummeted as I realized I'd have to delete a lot of the latest words I'd written because they aren't going to move the story in the right direction.

That is so frustrating to me - BUT - I recognize that it is also necessary.
I know Shirley once had to throw out three chapters (or was it more?) and I could feel my heart contract in terror. I couldn't imagine throwing that much work out! But then again...if those words aren't needed, then there's nothing else to do but hit the delete button. (Ok, ok, in all fairness, I never hit the delete button - I just cut and paste anything I delete into a "deleted scenes file." You never know when you might need it later. Or maybe I'm just incredibly weird.)

This whole process is otherwise known as "kill your darlings." And boy, if that isn't ever an apt description. I'll have to cut a scene that I really enjoyed writing and when I wrote it, the words just flowed. Everything came together so well. And now...zap! It must be conscripted to that sad file on my computer where all abandoned scenes go.

How about you? Do you loathe getting rid of scenes as much as I do, or are you quite content to hack away and get rid of that which doesn't work?


  1. I'm quite ruthless in that I'll delete anything that isn't working. If I'm particularly attached to something, I will save it elsewhere. But, generally, I have no problem at all with weeding. Where possible I'll start by over-writing so I have plenty to cut. If I'm lucky there are still many gems left.

  2. I sympathize. My word count thingy is down from what it was as I've had to delete loads and am rewriting at the mo.

    I once deleted 25k words from the beginning of my saga - all at once, and on purpose too. It was rather traumatic, but needed doing.

  3. I can't even consider a word count meter. It would haunt and taunt me like a bathroom scale! I do have an outtakes file, though, to save anything cut. Makes it easier to do, knowing I still have access if I change my mind or need those words for something else.

  4. If it doesn't work, out it goes. Everything turns up later. Sometimes the bones of the scene are really good, but it needs to be in a different book.

    Keeping your "deleted scenes" in a file is vitally important.

    Eventually, you get to use everything.

  5. Well, since it's a scene you love so much, I'm glad you'll just put it to the side. There may be something to use in there down the line!

    It is hard if it's something I put a lot of time and energy into. But if it wasn't something I felt was right from the get-go, I just let it go.

  6. I have deleted scenes that I loved and thought necessary, but then am glad for my gut instinct when the story read so much cleaner. You can always save it in a file, just in case!

  7. I've had to do that more than once. And it does hurt, however I keep it in the back of my mind just in case I can use it again.

  8. I collaborate in writing screenplays. Now, that can be hard when it's time to kill some darlings. Especially when it's your darling and the other writers want to kill it!

    But we do keep every major draft we do. And, yes, we've gone back to old drafts and reinstated certain scenes/ideas. But that's pretty rare.

  9. I can't remember now if it was three chapters or four. :o)

    I hate having to cut bits. I always have my word count visible because I love watching it go up. Hate it when it's suddenly a lot less than it was a fortnight ago. But if a scene's not working, out it goes. Deep in your heart, you know exactly when something isn't right. You also know that, when that word count is back up there, the work is much, much stronger for it.

    It's hard, but it's the only way to go.

  10. I just have to say that you amaze me in the fact that you know what to cut and what not to. I would not even know where to begin writing, and I would definitely have no idea if it was going in the right direction!

    You have a great talent.

  11. YES! I do have to cut out a lot. I'm a rambler. but I hvae to say I'm learning to be tough and just delete. I figure it's a way to let me know what could've happened, but didn't. LOL! That said, I STILL have tons of Pride & Popluarity scenes--massive chunks of the book--I can go back and look at, if i ever wanted to! LOL!

  12. I am the grand mistress of darling killers. My ms was 219000 words. It was written before I knew of the rules, and then I had to take it down to 100K. So I killed so many darlings I might qualify as serial. It was painful, some places it was entire chapters and entire CHARACTERS. Most definitely saved them to pull the essence out to use another time.

  13. I had to throw out a little less than a hundred pages on my new book and start from scratch. I'm getting faster at recognizing when I've got to change course...that's one good thing! Still, I beat my head against the wall pretty hard on that one.

    Everything I write has a "scraps" pile...and yes, some of it does get reused! I don't delete anything.

  14. I have no problem hacking and slashing away at manuscript. I do the same thing you do (put the cut stuff in a separate folder), so maybe that helps make things easier, I don't know.

    All I know is that I don't mind cutting. :) If it's dead weight, then it's gotta go...

  15. Yes, I have cut things out before. But I'm a children's writer and some of you have cut out more than I have ever written. Most of my stories are picture books, but I have 2 middle grade stories. I don't know how you novel writers do it, coming up with all those words.


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