I’ve really had my head down these last few weeks. I’ve locked myself away in the garret, pulled on the old fingerless gloves to combat the cold and damp summer weather, and I’ve been writing till my fingers bleed. Well. OK. Maybe not bleed. My keyboard isn’t razor-lined. In fact, it’s really quite comfortable to use, so I haven’t even developed any calluses. Or aches.
But I have been writing furiously (and, yes, I’m aware I used an adverb and that the road to hell is paved with them).
There was a dark moment last week when I thought it was all going wrong. I had my 110,000 word first draft in the bag and was feeling pretty smug about it all, then I started to read through it and . . . no, no NO.
It wasn’t right. It just wasn’t good enough. The twists didn’t work and the characters were acting out of character, so I struggled over it for a couple of days, trying to mould it the way it was supposed to be. I added, took away, edited, reworded, changed. I tried it all, but something just didn’t feel right.
It didn’t work.
And I learned a good lesson. If it doesn’t work, kill it. I’m talking in the literary sense, of course. Y’know, if your son isn’t working at school, I’m not suggesting anything more drastic than a stern talking to. But when it comes to writing, if the words aren’t doing the right job; kill them. Delete them. Take them out.
So I bit the bullet (as the school nurse used to tell us to do before an injection) and hit the ‘del’ key.
30,000 words disappeared into the ether.
My manuscript was short, I no longer had a finished first draft but, you know what? It’s better. The anxiety of it not being right is gone. The nightmare of trying to make it fit is gone. And there are plenty more words where those ones came from. And, (and this is the biggest ‘and’) the book is taking a new and far more interesting direction. I’m loving the characters more and the story is twisting and turning like it’s been sprayed with WD40.
And now all is good with the world.
So, if you’re looking for advice, that’s what I have right now. Be brave. Take a deep breath. Highlight and delete. You’ll feel much better. William Faulkner said ‘kill your darlings’ and he was right. If it’s not working, use the delete key. Kill it.
But I’d add a caveat – keep a copy . . . just in case.