I’ve only been doing this whole “writing” thing for about two weeks now, so I can’t say I have the experience to have any useful opinions about the craft, but recently I learned an interesting little lesson about one of my own tendencies as a writer: I tend to get irrationally attached to the things I’ve created. Whether it’s a whole piece or just a single sentence, I get attached, and by that I mean I’m unwilling to just throw it away. Now, that’s not to say I’m unwilling to throw what I perceive as bad stuff away (this blog entry’s continued existence notwithstanding), but if I think something is good, or even just average, I have difficulty getting rid of it.
This tendency caused me trouble late last week while working on my latest little project (~5000 words and climbing!). See, I’d written, oh, three or four hundred words of dialog and exposition between a few characters, and the next day, as I sat down before the keyboard, I found it extremely difficult to build up the motivation to write. Suddenly I was worried. Have I lost interest in this idea? Is this a case of that oh-so-dreaded condition, “writer’s block”? What’s going on?
Then it dawned on me: while the bit I’d written the day before was, from a technical standpoint, decent (well, to me, anyway), it was, from a plot development standpoint, basically superfluous. Worse, it wasn’t clear how I was going to move on from the situation without boring
- any potential readers, and
Fortunately, this was a very easy problem to fix: highlight, delete. Boom, nearly an hour’s worth of work gone. Was it a little painful throwing all that material away? Sure. But sometimes, you just gotta make the hard decisions.
Anyway, for any potential writers who give a damn about the things I’m learning as I go along, here’s what I was forced to ask myself:
- Is this passage interesting? And note, if you’re forcing yourself to write it, imagine what someone will go through while trying to read it.
- Does this passage advance the plot in a meaningful way?
- Does this passage tell the reader anything new or interesting about the characters or setting?
In my case, the answer to all three questions was “no”, so into the trash it went.
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