Friday, December 13, 2013

It's Hard to Let Go

Just as in any serious relationship when one of the partners becomes disinterested or turns their attention to someone else, it can be hard for the other one to let go. The same applies to writers who become seriously attached to their work. As a professional, you can’t let this happen.

You must learn to step back and look objectively at anything you write. Beginning writers get caught in the trap of thinking that everything they write is good when actually it’s all probably pretty bad. That’s a hard pill to swallow for any writer.

Repeated rejection will often try to point you in the right direction, but most beginning writers ignore that signal. Instead, they blame the editor or whoever gave them the last rejection. Some, perhaps you, repeatedly show their work to others hoping that someone will finally say what they want to hear.

It’s doubly hard to let go of writing if it’s good. Perhaps you put long hours into it. If that’s the case, you may be reluctant to delete it for content or continuity. It doesn’t matter how long you labored over a section. In the end, you have to ask yourself if it’s contributing to the overall storyline, or in the case of an article, to the slant. If it isn’t, then it needs to go.

So where does this idea of hanging on to some of your writing come from? Most likely from school. In fact, most of your bad writing habits developed there. This isn’t anyone’s fault. In fact, you probably absorbed this idea from your teachers. It’s a common thing in academic circles to be possessive of your work.

It’s especially hard to cut sections from books. When working on a longer manuscript, you can lose sight of the bigger picture. You need to keep the whole project in mind and be relentless in our deletions. Whatever doesn’t contribute to the whole concept must go.

To put a positive spin on this problem, you might consider saving what you’ve cut to use in
separate stories or articles. These could be spin-offs or completely different pieces.

When you begin revising, be sure to save your work with a different file name each step of the way. All you have to do is add a number—2,3,4, etc.—to the project’s file name. That way you can always go back and review or possibly use what you originally passed over.

A good way to get some distance from your writing when you’re having a particularly difficult time cutting sections from it is to put it aside for a time to get some perspective on it. Not consciously being aware of your story, article, or book, will let your mind forget it. When you finally do go back to it, you’ll see it with fresh eyes. And your eyes are the one that should see it, not someone else who can only give you their subjective opinion.

As a professional writer, you need to develop good editing skills, so you can decide what form your writing should take. It’s not the reader’s job. It’s yours.


Josh said...

As usual, you make perfect sense. Thanks for the much-needed refresher.

Josh said...

As usual, you make perfect sense. Thanks for the much-needed refresher.

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