I know in last week’s post that I’d promise a craft lesson, but I think there’s something more important that I’d like to talk about today.
It’s about knowing when something isn’t working. It’s about knowing when some piece of your work isn’t playing nice with the rest of your manuscript despite all the cajoling, pleading, or threatening you might do to get it to work.
Some paragraphs, characters, ideas, and often times whole chunks of your novel need to get thrown out to make way for what will ultimately be a better book.
The saying gets thrown around of having to “kill your babies”. It means that not everything you thought was golden in the outset is going to work in the long run.
In the book that I wrote for my MFA, I cut the first half of the novel three-quarters of the way into finishing my degree. Did it mean that I had a lot of work a head of me now that I’d lost more than a year of writing? Yeah, but it made the manuscript better for it.
So, rather than killing your babies, I’ve come to think of the parts of manuscripts that don’t work as partners in an unhealthy relationship. Sure, they were wonderful in the beginning, but now they’re becoming difficult. You’ve evolved, the rest of the story has become more nuanced and defined, but that one piece just won’t accept that things are changing.
You don’t treat just the symptoms of an injury to make it better just in the same way you don’t try to make things comfortable for the piece that’s making your writing stagnate.
Go ahead, rip that band-aid clean off. Delete that piece that’s making your writing feel clunky. Luckily writing isn’t quite so much like a bad relationship in that saving those bits and pieces to a separate folder of rejects won’t cause you pain. If you must keep them, then keep them in a folder with all the other grumpy bits of writing that crossed their arms and wouldn’t work with your manuscript.
Just like any other part of life, making that leap to a big change is never easy. It isn’t going to be easy to make major changes to your work. You’ve spent a lot of time on it, and it’s perfectly understandable that it might be difficult to watch things change so suddenly.
I believe in you, dear reader.
I know that whatever you are working on will be improved because of it. You’ve unshackled yourself from the limitations of what your writing used to be. Writing evolves and watching it grow exponentially after you’ve removed that little bit that isn’t working will amaze you.
Things will start clicking together. Your pace will pick up (at least it does for me), and you’ll wonder why you hung on to that bad relationship for so long.
Let me know in the comments below if you’ve ever had a hard time making your writing work for you. Also, let me know if you’d like me to start a craft focused series.