Ask any writer and they will tell you that the hardest part of writing is editing. Otherwise known as killing your darlings, it is much more difficult the just deleting or scratching out areas of the text that need to fixed or removed completely. It is destroying the work that the writer has put blood, sweat and tears into.
Unfortunately, it is part of the writing process, whether we like it or not.
Enter the cut page.
I’ve had cut pages for the last few years and I find them to be helpful. The cut page is a separate document from the document that contains your story. Instead of permanently deleting text that was removed during the editing process, it is saved to perhaps be used at a later date.
Below is an example of the cut page from the story I am presently working on.
One of the things I have learned is that every writer has their own style and their own way of working. For me, that includes having a cut page.
Among writers, the joke is that there is only one rule on how to write: there is no rule. There is however, two tried and true methods that writers employ to create their work. These methods are called pantsing and plotting.
Pantsing is when a writer will sit down to write and let their characters dictate where the story goes. Plotting is when a writer will construct an outline before creating the actual story. As there is with everything in life, there are pros and cons to both.
Pro: I find pantsing to be useful, especially when writing the first draft. It allows me to just create my story without feeling boxed in.
Con: It can feel constrained. Ask any writer and they will tell you that the first draft and the final draft can completely different. If a writer is wed to their outline, they may not be open to making changes needed to improve their work.
Pro: Outlines can be changed. They are not written in stone. For some writers, plotting allows them to focus on filling in the details.
Con: The problem with plotting is that it is the skeleton of the story. The writer(s) are still responsible for bringing the characters and the narrative to life.
My approach to writing is that of a panster. However, I can see the value in plotting, which can come in handy when editing your work.
Now, the question is, which is better? That answer is every writer must make up their own mind. It is a subjective response that is dependent on the writer and their perspective.
The hardest part of the writing process is waiting. You, as the writer, put everything into the article and you send it into the void of the internet. You hope that the article is accepted and then published.
A few years ago, I wrote an article for a website that regularly publishes my work. After a few weeks, when I had not heard from that publication, it became clear that they were not interested in publishing this particular. As the years have passed, I just gave up and moved on to other work.
I am not going to name that particular publication, but this is not and will not be the first time that I or any writer has been ghosted after submitting work for publication.
Cut to a few weeks ago. I was following up on new articles that I had submitted to this same website. On a whim, I included the old article that I had previously given up on. Last week, they published that article.
It was the highlight of my day.
Whatever you are going through, stay hungry and no matter what, don’t give up. You will make it, I promise you. Just keep at it. I know that it’s not easy, but persistence always pays off.
The amount of writing advice one could look up on the internet is endless. Regardless of their level of success, every writer has at least once piece of writing advice to share with their fellow writers.
But without a doubt, the most important piece of advice is just to write.
Is the first draft going to absolutely perfect? Perhaps in a fantasy world, but not in the real world. In her book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, (which I highly recommend), Anne Lamott has a chapter called Shitty First Drafts for a reason. It’s easier to make edits to a shitty first draft than to a page with no text at all.
Over this past holiday season, I made myself a goal. By the time clock struck midnight on December 31st, I would have a word count of 20,000 words for my novel. It wasn’t easy, especially with the distractions that can take one away from writing, but I did it.
My point that writers have to write.We have to turn on the metaphorical faucet and do the work. It’s not easy, but there are few satisfactions that can compare to knowing that you have achieved a piece of writing that your proud of (even if it is in shitty first draft form).
I wrote in one of my posts last night about the novel writing group that I joined and how hard it is to kill your darlings.
Tonight I want to write about how hard the writing process is.
The group works as follows:
Everyone who wants to submit will submit a section that they would like help on.
The rest of the group, after reading, provides constructive criticism.
The point of the group is not to attack the piece or the writer, but to help each other grow as writers.
One of the members, whom I suspect will not be returning, took the constructive criticism rather personally. To be fair, the piece that this member submitted was a very rough draft and it didn’t quite adhere to the traditional format of a novel, but that is not the point.
The process of creating art is not easy.
The truth is that hearing criticism, no matter how constructive it is, is very hard to take. It is a blow to the artist’s ego. They put everything into their art and it is still torn to shreds. The chapter that I submitted was torn to shreds. The notes from my fellow writers are like a bitter pill that I know that I have to swallow if I want to succeed.
But the reality is that this is the writing process. Letting my work be torn to shreds and receiving constructive criticism will only make me a better writer and one day, hopefully a published writer.
There is a statement in writing that all writers know and dread: kill your darlings.
For the non writers reading this post, it means editing. It is not the easy editing where a writer would correct a spelling or grammatical error. To kill your darlings as a writer is hard editing. It means that the writer is changing a beloved passage or making changes that they didn’t think they needed to make.
I’ve been killing my darlings since January. About six or seven years ago, I wrote a draft of a novel. It is my adaptation of Beauty And The Beast with Bronte-esque elements. In January, I joined a local novel writing group via meetup. I knew at that time that it was nowhere near the point where I felt comfortable sending it out for possible publication. The first meetup confirmed my feelings.
Since then, I have been killing my darlings again and again.
It’s not easy, especially considering the time I put into the novel prior too joining the group. But the effort (and sometimes heartache) is totally worth it. While my novel is still far from the point of sending out for possible publication, it is slowly getting there.
I know that I will have to continue to kill my darlings for as long as it takes. It’s not easy, but if the end result is publication, then it must be done.