Avis Thoughts #1
The Fear of Hitting Backspace (a short personal story)
Okay, so when I started taking writing more seriously, I’ll admit I never really put much thought into the revision process and especially about deleting chunks of my writing in the past.
I never noticed how if there was something wrong with my writing I would tend to struggle to work around the flawed parts of it or try to forcefully integrate before I even considered deleting anything. Sometimes, I didn’t even delete the pieces of flawed writing and left it in because of how much time I spent typing it. (*cough* “sunk cost fallacy” *cough*)
It wasn’t until months into working on the early draft of a manuscript I was working on that I realized the importance of deleting work. At the time I was battling with an intense case of writer’s block and nothing I did seemed to appease the problem. It wasn’t that I couldn’t come up with new ideas or scenes but rather I couldn’t work certain ones into my writing or the overall plot of the story.
Whenever I tried to incorporate a couple of my new ideas with my old ones it didn’t connect well, and when I tried to rework my old ideas to fit my new ones problems in my writing started to emerge. It was like trying to mash together two puzzle pieces that weren’t meant to get together. The more I struggled to clump my ideas together, the more issues that arose in my writing, and the more issues, the more frustration I had.
Add the fact that at the time I was writing the manuscript I was dealing with personal problems including a falling out with a friend, rapidly approaching deadlines, many of which academic ones, and a bit of drama with people close to me, and you can imagine how disjointed and frustrating my writing process was.
To make a long story short my early draft suffered and I was an unhappy camper.
It was only after a near month of dealing with writer’s block that I had an epiphany.
That epiphany was that my old work wouldn’t work with what I had in mind no matter how hard I tried to force these different concepts together. Those different ideas I had wouldn’t work due to how drastically different and story altering they were. If I wanted to move forward I was going to have to make a difficult decision, either erase months worth of work and start fresh, or continue to struggle with my old flawed ideas. The choice was mine to make and with immense hesitation, I choose the former.
I scrapped nearly my entire outline, and began to work from square one.
Now, this was difficult to fathom at the time, which may be confusing to those who don’t write stories, poems, etc., or have never had this issue so let me explain.
It it wasn’t just another school essay or paper I had to type up in a few minutes before class because I put it off, it was something that I put a lot of effort into and honestly cared about. I mean imagine pouring meticulous hours of work and dedication into something only to have it destroyed in seconds, then having to basically try to build it again with that knowledge you might have to scrap what you made again.
So I went about butchering my manuscript, I took out my old scenes and pieces of writing, and inserted my new ones which I built upon. I deleted epic scenes, cool concepts, trashed needless but much loved characters all while working to fix the overall plot line. This time consuming process took weeks but it turned out to be well worth my time. When I finished, I was left with one of the best outlines I’ve ever written in years, which something I wouldn’t of predicted I would of had through much deletion, revision, and rewrites.
I felt like I had to share this story because many us tend to associate mass deletion with failure or just can’t let go of things that bog down their writing. But hitting backspace doesn’t make you a bad writer, if anything it shows the opposite. Writing isn’t a one and done process and it takes a lot of commitment and sacrifice. Trust me, I know it may feel hard to let go of that scrap of writing but it’s worth it, especially when you finally get to hold that revised copy knowing that you not only closer to getting to that final draft, but you made your writing better.
To end, I’d like to mention to this day I still tussle with myself on occasion when it comes to letting go of pretty sounding words, spell bounding descriptions, and cool ideas, but in the end I do because it has to be done. My belief is that in order for any writer to improve upon his or her work, that writer must be prepared to make sacrifices when it comes to revision time, even if those sacrifices may make us feel temporarily cruddy.
If you haven’t seen it yet I made a post on “Killing Darlings,” which delves into this process of deleting parts of your writing right here.
With this all being said what are your thoughts? Have you gone through a similar thing? Feel free comment down below or tweet at me. I’d especially be curious to know if you struggled with a similar thing before, or maybe have some tips I haven’t heard of with dealing with deleting your old work. I’m all ears for new advice and a nice discussion. 🙂