Not everything you puke out in Word is worth keeping, even if you like it. You can write pages and pages of stuff you’re in love with, but still know it’s never going to fit in your story unless you change everything around it to make it work, which is only ever going to make the whole thing sound contrived and clumsy.
NO SHIT, right? Obviously I knew this anyway, everybody knows this, but it’s different when you’re mid-flow and the thought’s there in your head and you don’t want to pay attention to it, especially if you’re like me. I’m not ~a writer~ at all, I never have been and doubt I ever will be. I go through these sporadic bursts of inspiration, but the in between times are months or years of pulling teeth trying to make words work. This is the reason I’m such a terrible editor. When my brain decides to cooperate and give me words, I hoard them like a dragon sitting on a heap of gold – but in this analogy the dragon is a stupid dimwit with cataracts who doesn’t realise half of the heap is made up of useless old Quality Street wrappers. Do I know the Stockholm Syndrome books would be massively improved if whole chapters were removed? Absolutely yes, especially the first one. Am I going to do that? FUCK NO! Objectively I know it would be better, but I write so little that every single bit of it starts to feel more valuable than it should.
So this is what I’m trying to get over with this new thing I’m writing (Captured Shadows – might post an extract soon to get opinions). I started off so well: the story was flying out and filling pages and post-its and the back of envelopes and the margins of my textbooks when I was supposed to be studying, and it was good. I was too afraid to stop in case my scumbag brain decided it was time for another hibernation – so what I ended up with before I decided to have a word with myself was 47K+ of stuff that was great, that I loved, but it wasn’t going anywhere. I don’t think I’d made even a 10% dent in the actual story I’m trying to tell, and this time around I want to do things properly.
Deep breath, and DELETE.
Do it quickly like ripping off a sticky plaster, it hurts less.
Now I’ve got about 24K words. They’re good words. I’m afraid to talk about them too much in case I jinx myself and shut down, but actually I feel less and less like that’s going to happen now. It’s like pruning the shit out of your roses so the new bits come out better and more beautiful than they would have if they’d been all snarled up with too much unnecessary growth.
Optimism is a new one for me, I’m not sure I feel entirely comfortable with this ;)
And this is the first time I’ve not felt like going into Victorian mourning after deleting a chunk of writing, so I’m going to celebrate with a cup of tea.