Thursday, July 30, 2009

Trash Or Treasure?

One of the great things about being a writer are those days when I sit at the computer and write, write, write for hours without even thinking twice. It's like the words just flow out, and then when I look back I can't even remember writing some of it... and the best part? Every word works perfectly!

And then there are days like Tuesday.

Days when I sit there and muddle my way through, thinking I'm maybe... sort of on the right track. And then I finish up, reread it and think, "Who am I kidding? This is all wrong."

But even if I'm unhappy with it, I have no plans on scrapping the whole thing without thinking it through first. Before I do anything, I need to filter through what I wrote and decide if it feels "all wrong" because the writing is bad, or because it's just not the right way to develop the story. Because unless that particular section is wrong on both counts, it's possible I can edit in such a way to make it work.

When this happens, I end up with different ideas running through my head. Maybe I keep the general idea of the scene but change the characters who experience it. Maybe I cut out some of the exposition and focus on action and character interaction. Or maybe I move the scene to a different section of the novel.

Or maybe I highlight the entire section and happily press delete.

The point is, if you're writing something and you have that moment where you want to be like the frazzled writer you see depicted on television who yanks the sheet of paper from his typewriter, crumples it angrily and sends it flying across the room into the wastebasket... don't! Give yourself time. Think it through. See what you can salvage. Because what you may initially think is all junk might just turn up a tidbit that could develop into a treasure.

If, after thinking it through and taking your time, you decide it's just not going to work anywhere, try cutting it and pasting it into a separate document for safekeeping. That's what I do whenever I cut a significant portion that I think might have any merit. For instance, right now I'm working on the third book in the Calloway Summers series. So I have a file named "Catching Moondrops cuts". That way, if I ever hit a part of the story where I think a former throwaway section might work, I can dig it up and use whatever is suitable. Anyway, anything that really does belong in the recycle bin will end up there eventually.

So take your time and think about editing before deleting. And save what you think may be mistakes. You never know when they might come in handy.


C.J. Darlington said...

Great advice! I've had this happen many times, too. I'll try to remember your words next time I want to delete a whole chapter! Ha ha.

Jennifer Valent said...

Thanks, CJ! It's tempting at times, isn't it? :)

Ethan M. said...

Good advice. I won't be writing books of course, but for my gaming reviews and school papers it could come in handy.