Kate McIntyre (@KateMcBooks) February 28, 2015
Grr! Is there anything worse?
It’s one thing when you realize that everything you just wrote is terrible and you have to delete it. But it’s quite another when you loved it and you have to get rid of it anyway! Maybe it’s slowing the chapter down. Maybe the scene meandered away from the point and you can’t get it to do what it was meant to do. And maybe you just did something like me — forgot a basic little rule and wrote a bunch if nonsense that the characters should have been way too smart to say. It’s always painful to hit the delete button when it’s erasing words you actually liked, especially if it’s happening during the writing phase and you haven’t got your editor’s poker face on. It’s a sad fact that sometimes you have to backtrack to keep moving forward, and that means junking everything on the fork you just turned away from.
I talked about my best solution for this in my article on editing your manuscript, and I wanted to bring it up again because it applies to this, too. Don’t erase it! Save it. Turn that delete button into a cut+paste, instead. Save the writing you liked in a little document somewhere, where you can take it back out and look at it if you ever get the urge again. Knowing it’s somewhere really does help.
But what about advice for getting yourself back into the swing of writing after you’ve had to backtrack?
Well… that’s less simple. The way I’ve found is straight-forward but not easy: pull up your pants and put your head down. It’s never fun to write in the void left behind by perfectly good words. It’s always going to feel like a remedial version of the same thing, even if you head in a different direction. You’ve just got to get through it.
But another super important thing to keep in mind about junking good writing? You should only do it when you need to! So long as you’re still writing your book and aren’t into the editing phase with a full draft under you, junking should only be done when a scene can’t proceed with things the way they are, either because it’s gone completely off intended course or because it’s full of holes and falling over. A lot of the time, it doesn’t need to be done at all. So be sure to think about why you’re deleting before you hit the button and put yourself through the pain.