The Theory of Chaos

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

How I trick myself into Not Sucking

Every writer, at some point, absorbs the lesson that we must kill our darlings. The phrase or passage we have the most fondness for is probably superfluous, because we fall in love with something about its rhythm and ornamentation, we are no longer feeling the story in the way the reader does. So when you get to that amazing, cathartic process of cutting, beware that hesitance you feel when you know that something is not feeding the emotion of the moment, but you "like it" anyway.

This is about fear - you fear destroying it because you fear that you'll never be able to write a passage with such a precise "feel" again, so even if that "feel" is unnecessary, you fear deleting it like you'd fear cutting off a finger - it ain't like they grow back. No one ever gets good at this.

What I've started to do is, when I find a darling, I have a separate file I open up, and I cut and paste it into that. "
See?" I tell myself, "it's not gone forever. And if, once you've done the re-write, you find that the story is really missing that passage, it'll be back with a couple of keystrokes!"

And the amazing thing is - never once have I restored something I put in there. All those smartly-written, clever, useless passages of text. Every single one turned out to be unnecessary.


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