Slaughtering Your Word Children

Posted on 29/05/2012 by


There’s something amazingly cathartic about a final draft. It’s horrible and brilliant at the same time. Because it’s the end. It’s your last chance. So there’s no more avoiding things. There’s no more thinking, ‘well I’ll deal with that later’. That awkward piece of prose? That hiccup in the conversation? That transition that makes you cringe? You have to deal with it. No skipping over it, no looking away, no thinking, Nobody will notice that.

It’s hard. And forcing yourself to look at all the horrible parts makes you feel like a hack. And being unable to fix them makes you feel like a failure. And when everything else has been cleared away they’re just so…

But then sometimes you look at the thing you’ve been avoiding and the answer just falls into place. Sometimes in sheer desperation you write something beautiful. And sometimes you find yourself staring at a piece you’ve reworked eight or nine times already and still aren’t happy with, and in sheer disgust you ask yourself, Do I really need this? And maybe what you meant was, Why did I choose to become a writer in the first place? But the sentence rolls around in your head. And you look at the rest of the book, at the characters, at the arc, and you realise that somewhere along the way the important stuff has been said. And you look back at that part that you hate and you suddenly realise that the reason it doesn’t work, that it’s never been quite right, is that it doesn’t really belong there. So you find the delete button.* And it just goes away. It’s beautiful.

backlit command button on a macbook air

Not it. Just FYI.

* Or if you’re a bit neurotic, you move the cut text into a save file, just in case.