Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Letting Go

I often wonder why letting go parts of your book—bits of dialogue, parts of scenes, characters even—is so difficult. It seems common sense. If something isn’t working, get rid of it. Despite this, I still struggle with just…letting go.

I’ve been focusing on revisions of BTPM recently – and I’m so, so close to the end. YAY. Thing is, I had some pretty major sweeping revisions that I wanted to complete. Snip this out, add this there, rearrange and rewrite this. It’s a good amount of work and I’ve managed to make it through most of the big changes without so much as a hiccup or pause. I saved the “obvious” changes for last. I knew I wanted to rewrite one major chunk of the book because it literally seemed to go on FOREVER. Mostly narrative, with little dialogue to break it up. It’s written well, generally speaking, but it’s just too much and I knew it would need a lot of attention.

I’ve had a general idea of what I wanted to do with it…just how I would lead into the changes…in my head for well over a year, if not longer. I left it to the end, because it seemed a no-brainer to me. Why start with the easy stuff, when I had all of these other changes I needed to worry about, yanno?

Finally, I was left with this one last big change. I started the section with the image I’d been seeing in my head for so long – it was the perfect way to lead into it. It would give a sense of time and frustration...it would accomplish everything I needed it to.

Ha. Wasn’t I in for a big surprise?

It sucked. It sucked bad.

I don’t think I realized this right off the bat, mind. I worked on it for a bit, looked at everything it was accomplishing, and YES…it was perfect. I worked on it some more. For some reason, I couldn’t find the right way to transition out of the scene. Nothing seemed to be working. But still, I was convinced it was the correct way to begin. The only way that I could picture it beginning. WHY wouldn’t it work?? I had had it knocking around in my brain for so long, obviously it had to be right.

Eventually it dawned on me. It was boring as all get out. True, it was accomplishing what I wanted it to accomplish…but in an almost clinical, boring manner. It didn’t have any OOMPH that had me excited to continue writing. It was basically a thousand words of dead air, and that dead air was choking my writing engine.

Needless to say, I was a bit freaked by this at first. I mean, I’ve been writing for so long now, shouldn’t I know whether something will work before I waste so much time and energy working on it? I mean, shouldn’t I?? Is this a sign that I’m completely clueless and a total hack?


Of course not.

I just had to let go of an idea that I’d held on to so long. It wasn’t easy and my mind definitely resisted, thinking maybe I could make it work if I tried this and this… maybe. No, but it had to be cut. Simple as that. I scratched the scene idea, opened a new doc, and began afresh. I had no idea where I would go when I began—just started writing, hoping something would appear out of this primordial goop of words.

And it did.

Proud to say an even better idea appeared on the page – one that accomplishes all of my original goals and then some. And one that’s much more interesting and actually adds to the story rather than simply being a filler to impart some important tidbits I felt the reader needed to know.

So yeah, lesson learned. Sometimes you just have to let go.


  1. It's *so* hard to cut your darlings! I've let a few go lately and I'm wondering about one bit I've worked on forever. Hmmm. I might have to find a better way to do that one. ; )

    Good post, Jen

  2. I give major props to anyone who can objectively cut their darlings -- sometimes I can, but sometimes I fight tooth and nail...

    In one instance I realized it was just a few lines of a scene I was attached to, and not particularly the whole thing. Ditched the scene, kept the lines, and the scene that emerged in its place was a lot better. Phew!

    I've written snippets of scenes that I *know* won't make it into the final draft, but I can't bring myself to put them off to the side yet. Sigh. I'm not ready to let go of those yet.

    Congratulations on nearing the end and good luck! :-)

  3. Right there with you, Jen. The discovery that a scene you originally thought was majorly important is just plain boring is quite the face-slap, but it means really good things about your level of perspective :)

    Hurrah for being so so close to the end! I'm cheering on your every step.

  4. Congratulations on being close to the end Jen!
    It's really hard to let go. The more I do it, the easier it gets, but I'm still top heavy with words and know I need some major cuts. Must... be... objective...

  5. Jen, seems we're on the same page this week! LOL

    So glad to hear you're so close to finishing this. Good luck! :-)