Right now I am writing what is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever written. You see, for some stupid reason I wrote the death of a child into one of the chapters of my current work-in-progress [WIP.] The death is very significant to the overall plot so I can’t write it out. Removing it would be like taking the dead man out of Dead Man’s Cell Phone. Needless to say, I cannot retract it.
And I don’t want to. Writing can be hard and that’s what makes for great writing. As much as I’d like them to be, themes, scenes and plots can’t always be happy-rosy. They can be jarring, they can be gritty, and they can be downright upsetting to both write and read.
I always talk about balance—about learning to accept the bad with the good. I’m certainly learning to accept the bad on this one. I’m not ashamed to admit that this particular piece caused me to shed a few tears throughout its many versions. Still, I am going to write the bad and I’m going to give it everything I have. This is definitely one of the defining moments in my life as a writer.
However. I am so hell-bent on getting this moment perfect that I can’t seem to get it right. I have re-written this piece three times now and my words still do not jive with my intent. No matter what I do with it I am not satisfied. It is as if the universe is intentionally trying to stump me to teach me some sort of lesson.
“Don’t write about children dying,” Maybe?
Here’s how it’s gone: I dropped a serious drama bomb with the first draft. It was too over-the-top. I rode the drama-llama out of town with the second. It was far too sterile for such an emotional chapter. The third draft was smack dab in the middle—dramalicious without being overly dramatic.
And I just deleted it.
Seriously. It’s gone. Adios. Aloha. Sayoonara. Bai bai. With a single drag and drop into my Mac’s trash-bin I deleted four hours of hard work.
And—nope. There is no back-up copy. I did not e.mail it to myself. Nor did I print out a copy to place in my big fat WIP folder. There aren’t any written-on receipts stuffed into bag of notes. The words are—plain and simple—gone. That is that.
Am I bothered? Actually, not really. Sure, I did lose around 7-8k words and approximately 10 hours of work between the three versions, but something about each one of them felt wrong. They weren’t what I wanted them to be. There was no real “Eureka!” moment while writing any one of them. That is why I do not much mind repeating my efforts—again.
Not everything is perfect the first time around. In fact, few things are. Yes, there are ‘naturally gifted’ writers—and you may be one of them—but naturally talented baseball players still frequent the batting cages, don’t they?
There will be thoughts that take time and a little bit of elbow grease to blossom. They won’t immediately bloom into the flower you want them to be. That’s what happened in my case. My brain needed a few revisions before the right story clearly developed and it was set on what it wanted to do. Then the good stuff came.
Sad, sure—but good.
I know that this is only a rough draft and that I will come to revisit it during the complete-work rewrites, but what it did for me was instrumental: it got me going in the right direction. This way, when I come back to it, I will not be asking myself why it is I chose to write what I did. As well, I will not be completely confusing both myself and the reader with this moment.
It is important to remember that there are times when you have to take what you’ve written and throw it out of the proverbial window—maybe not to the extent that I did this week, but to some extent, at least. Difficult, I know—but the act of starting again is one you’ll need to partake in if you want to improve. Some may see it as wasting time. I see it as creating a better ‘next time.’ So, instead of looking at deleting as “lost time and effort,” look at it as “gained quality and satisfaction.”
At any rate, try not to grow too attached to your words. Sometimes, deleting them is better.
Until next time,