Last weekend, I attended a meeting of a local sci-fi/fantasy writer’s group. They’re a great group of writers, each with their own keen sense of humor and beautiful imagination. I had submitted the first six pages of my current novel to see what they group thought of it. They had some great ideas for minor problems I knew about, but one writer had a fantastic idea. The only issue with the fantastic idea is that I would have to re-work the plot of my first seventy pages. Basically, everything after this first six pages…
I am not so foolish as to think that my initial writing is glorious and should be left alone. But how does someone go about tossing such a huge chunk of your story? It is something I’m sure writers get used to but this first time is going to hurt.
I had a creative writing professor tell my class once that if you craft a perfect sentence, paragraph, or essay, one that surpasses everything you’ve every written, a sentence that makes you stop and stare and smile, then you should throw it out. Initially I balked at the idea. If it’s so perfect, why on earth should you throw it out? However, a year later I had to write a research paper for another course and found myself staring at a cleverly crafted sentence that caused me to throw my chest out with pride. But, as I re-read the passage for basic edits, I slowly came to realize that the sentence didn’t fit with the rest of the work. It stood out. With a heaving sigh, I saved the sentence in a separate document and started again. On a final read-through, I silently saluted my professor and her hard-won wisdom.
This seems to be the same sort of situation but on a much larger scale. It’s daunting, and I can see why editors have such trouble with stubborn authors. It can’t be that bad! This section can’t be that out of place. If you delete this, then the rest of the story doesn’t work! And so on. Granted, this is a first draft, and there are strong and intelligent reasons why I should follow my fellow writing group member’s advice. That tiny creative child inside of me is kicking her feet in outrage though. Perhaps I will find a new path for my characters, a better one that will move faster and with more precision, two things I have struggled with so far.
Have you ever had to deal with major edits or deletions? Have you ever read back over a substantial piece of work and decided to chuck the entirety and start again? How difficult was that for you?
I’ll let you know how bad it goes for me and how far I let my creative child throw that tantrum.