Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Let Go

Three weeks ago, I’d had enough of banging my head against my computer’s keypad. My forehead was tattered, and hangnails were in full bloom from gnawing.

Y’see, the thread I’d been trying to shoehorn into my current wip wouldn’t fit. I’d re-word action sequence this, and I’d massaged character that, just to get the bloody thing to work. Because this idea was really, really cool. If I could figure out how to make it a go, it’d be awesome.

Four months--an entire season--later, it still wasn't working. Reluctantly, with a gentle sob into my pillow deep in the night, I realized I couldn’t make it a go. Instead I had to let it go.

I resisted, though. I spent another month of fiddling. How can you kill your children? Chucking a juicy thread went against my instinct as a writer, especially since I’d spent so long tinkering with it. I'd invested months and page counts and a whole plot arc into it.

Here’s the thing, though. As soon as I tearfully bid the thread goodbye, the clouds parted. Literally. The birds sang, my fingers flew over the keyboard, I was free, FREE. The plot unfolded like a petal.

I wonder now if I had junked the thread after, say, only six weeks of tinkering, I would be less resistant to sending it into the crapper. But I cut myself some slack. Writers have play with stuff to see if it works, audition characters, explore their crazy ideas to see if they might actually hang together. It's the only way to push the boundaries, move away from the stereotypes. And sometimes they have to be wise enough to say "enough."

Are you having trouble with a plot thread, a character? Maybe even the entire MS?

Consider letting go. Once the anvil’s gone, you might be free to soar.


Blogger Eileen said...

Once I ended up chucking 50k words and taking off on a new direction. It was the right thing to do- but it felt like gnawing off my own leg to get free of the trap.

9:26 PM  
Blogger jackslyde said...

I've had to ditch stuff before, but eventually it weedled(?) it's way into new stuff I was writing, so as it turned out, it wasn't a wasted effort after all. Not that writing could ever be a wasted effort, even if nobody else ever saw it.

(any chance you'll let non-blogger blogs post?)

10:01 PM  
Blogger Kathleen Bolton said...

Hi Jack,
I know Bugger is a PITA about comments but we were getting spammed. One of these days we'll move on to a freer system. "Letting Go" of Blogger if you will...

2:37 PM  
Blogger Elena Greene said...

Kudos for having the strength to make the change, Kathleen!

Jackslyde, I agree no writing is ever wasted. I figure failed scenes, wrong plot turns, etc..., are like the falls figure skaters take in practice. What counts is nailing it in the end, and you can't do that without the falls. Or if anyone has, I'm not sure I want to hear about it!

1:46 PM  

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