Friday, January 4, 2013

The Most Important Thing: Destroying your Work


"Put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it." - Colette


We know the expression, "killing your darlings" but do you agree with Colette that an author can, without pity, destroy most of one's own stuff?

I wipe out a lot of my writing on a regular basis, but I never feel like it's truly destroyed since it merely lies dormant in an electronic file. Yet there's something cathartic about assigning entire sentences, paragraphs, chapters, or novels, to the figurative flame. I know many of you have trashed entire novels and started again. I have. And I've never regretted it.

This month I'm diving back into revision and I will be on a path of destruction. Who's with me?

24 comments:

  1. I am starting a new project, but I can't help myself. Every day I sit down to work, I read over what I wrote the day before and inevitably destroy a fair piece of it. So I guess I'm sort of with.

    On the last round of revision for my last wip, however, I started by axing the first 6 chapters!

    Good luck with revisions...we're right behind you :-)

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    1. So you're in the "put down everything that comes in your head" spot. Enjoy!

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  2. It's just like knitting...if you're not willing to undo your work to improve it, you shouldn't have started it in the first place.

    Great post!

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  3. I agree with you that it's cathartic. Sometimes less is more, and yes, while it does still exist in an earlier saved version, it's freeing to have the ability to get rid of what isn't working and try something different.

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  4. I just finished scratching what was one of my favorite parts of my ms. It worked perfectly in my mind, until I considered the age group I was writing for. So, I killed it. Hurt? Yeah, but it was necessary.

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  5. I'm trying to learn how to destroy my work now. I sat down at my first draft and muttered, "edit, edit, edit." Then, miraculously, the power went off and I drank my coffee in the dark (true story).

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  6. I have trashed whole novels in the sense of rewriting from scratch. I starting writing novels at 13. Looking back on the work years later, I found that though I still loved parts of the story and the main character it was impossible for me to write in the same style as my younger self (plus I needed to make huge plot changes) so it was easier to just start fresh.

    But always keep that backup, because sometimes you need it again later. There was a maze scene I liked in Violet Eyes, but had to cut. It ended up as chapter two of the sequel and fit there quite well.

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  7. I trashed 38k earlier this year. And I was in love with Collette for years and years. SO love the quote.

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  8. My destruction phase will come later, LOL. Right now, I'm in the construction phase, just beginning a from-scratch rewrite of an old ms.

    Happy revising/hacking/slashing/destroying! :)

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  9. It usually is cathartic... after I get over that initial fear of "oh no, I have to rewrite all of that... and make it better." Starting over always seems to fix things, though.

    Wishing the best of luck to you in your revisions!

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    1. Thanks, Brooke. Hope your new year is off to a great start!

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  10. Yup, I'm also digging into revision this month, and I love to cut! I think it's perfectly legit to realize that a given "darling" may work in a future book -- just not this one.

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    1. Best wishes for a fabulous revision month!

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  11. I love that scary-delicious feeling of starting anew. Like you, I rarely have regrets about what I've tossed. Besides, the bonfire is great for s'mores!

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  12. I never really get rid of anything. Though I do put it in a place where I never have to see it again unless I want to go get it :)

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