Monday, March 09, 2009

Are you brave enough to DELETE?

I'm finally getting comfortable with the delete key. Not just comfortable... it's quickly becoming my best friend.
There used to be a time when I wouldn't DARE delete sentences or paragraphs, at least not without saving every variation of document 'just in case'. But as I grow as a writer, my hesitation diminishes. It's relative, I suppose.
In the past year I've kissed entire chapters goodbye.
Completely trashed a short story (it sucked).
In the case of that paranormal I began last January, (which is currently sitting on a back burner until I'm good enough to finish it -- it's bigger than my talent at the moment), I probably wrote-deleted-rewrote (rinse, repeat) about 40-50 K. That's practically an entire novel!! *GAH*

How does one get from the Each Word is Precious stage to the Be Gone Damn Ink! stage? I found someone who summed it beautifully. Check out this post by Elana of the Johnson Literary Agency:

Delete? Yes. Because I can do better.


Leah Braemel said...

LOL, I remember our conversation about this last week. With Personal Protection, I wrote about 125K or so, and only 73K survived. It was write 10K, cut 5, write 15K, cut 10. But I also have crit partners who are honest enough with me that I knew what would survive their red pens and what wouldn't and saved them the trouble.

Plotters say if you plot you don't cut as much. I don't believe it. I start out by plotting every one of my stories.

I took a course taught by Allison Brennan last year and was complaining about how much I'd cut. She told me that her first book THE HUNT, her editor loved the prologue and the first chapter but not much else. She ended up deleting 300 pages and rewriting it. In FEAR NO EVIL, she ended up deleting & rewriting the last 135 pages. And she went on from there. So at least you're in good company - look how many she's ended up selling.

If you know something is wrong and the only way to fix it is to delete it, then that's what you have to do. Steven King says in his ON WRITING: Kill your darlings. You have to be brutal sometimes to get to the best part of the book and get a bigger emotional punch.

Rene said...

Hmmm...I'm not sure how to answer. I don't delete. Not much anyway. Its not that every word I put down is brilliant (they aren't), but I self-edit before I write. I'm also very linear in my thinking when I write so there usually isn't a continuity issue.

When I first started writing I did do a lot more deleting. I fell in love with prologues and narratives. Now that I write in 1st person, there isn't room or temptation.

Thomma Lyn said...

I love it, "Begone Damn Ink." I've done so much deleting lately I'm not sure I remember how to write. ;) Just kidding, but seriously... I scrapped two rough draft versions of Heart's Chalice, and now that I'm working on an outline to rewrite the novel formerly known as Occam's Razors, I'm figuring out just how much I'll be -- yes, deleting (of course, new scenes will be added).

I like how Caren Johnson makes an analogy to pottery. I think of writing a novel akin to sculpture. The rough draft is the roughly formed hunk, and the process of reaching the final draft consists of shaping, molding, and yes cutting anything which doesn't look like the story.

Wylie Kinson said...

Leah - thanks for sharing your experience. It must have been very hard to cut Personal Protection by that much! I read SK's book On Writing, but at the very very beginning of my writing journey. I'm sure I'd benefit with a reread.

Rene - LOL on narratives and prologue! I've been there myself (in fact, I still may be, kinda).
I love reading first person POV. The whole stream-of-consciousness experience is thrilling. Nelson Demille does this really well.

Wylie Kinson said...

TL - Re HC: Ouch. But if it must be done, it must be done! And your comparison to sculpture is right-on. Chink away until you've got a masterpiece.

M. said...

I still use the 'delayed delete' function. Words and sentences I can cut without a qualm, but whole paragraphs? Pages? (we won't even talk about chapters). Those I often send to a 'loose ends' file. I only look at that every few months, and by the time I do I can usually part with the bits more easily.

I think you should trademark 'Begone Damn Ink!'

Jason Crawford said...

I suppose it's a natural progression as a writer because I, too, am finding it a lot easier to delete words, sentences, and even chapters from my work than it used to be.

The thing that helps me is the fact that I've come to realize that deleting is sorta like pruning a plant. There's less plant than when you first began clipping, but overall, it's a much nicer plant.

As a wannabe tween writer, I'm a fan of Eoin Colfer. His writing is short, sweet and to the point, and funny. The fewer the words, the better.

Wylie Kinson said...

M. Or use it as the title of my next book? LOL

Jason - thanks for visiting my blog, and offering another good analogy :)
Good luck with your writing.