When to Burn Everything

Writers struggle with this more so than artists working in visual mediums.  It’s understandable.  We spend days, weeks, on a single project before we realize things aren’t going as planned.  A trap many of us fall in is thinking a massive revision will fix it.  In some cases, this is true.  Things like potholes, character arches, can and should be worked over.  But when the overall story seems lacking, or, it just doesn’t fit your initial idea, delete everything and start over. 

Many of you just recoiled when reading that.  Some possibly cursing me allowed – shame on you.

Writers need to know when it’s time to start over.

Some may argue that vital details will be lost, the story will not flow the same way, and snarky character quips could be forgotten.  I say, GOOD.

Like a peanut butter and banana sandwich, the good stuff always sticks around.

What’s there can constrain you.

I’m sure some writers can read over five thousand words, hack and slash it until it fits they’re initial concept.  For me, what is already written convolutes what I’m trying to write whenever I go off-track.  Instead of ensuring the overall concept is clear, I worry about fine tuning minor details.  I can’t remember how many times I’ve began writing, became infatuated with a character’s personality, ultimately tailoring the story so they shine.

Now, I want to caution my fellow gardeners, those who repeatedly revise instead of outline.  Be wary of protectionism.  Occasionally we all suffer from it.

You are not perfect.

Dry your eyes.  I didn’t mean to be so harsh, but it’s true.

For my fellow revisers out there, consider a number of revisions you allow yourself.  Personally, it’s four.  After that, whatever I have is sent out to beta readers, and to my ego smashingly honest editor who is nursed by my broken dreams.

Tonight, write for thirty minutes without outlining and do not save.  Then try and write it again and see the difference for yourself.

If it doesn’t work and you’ve lost the beginning of modernity’s greatest novel, well, fuck me, I’m sorry.  Guess I owe you a beer.


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