With bravery come the spoils of war

And trust me, writing is a lot like a war sometimes.  Yesterday wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be after girding my armor on here at the blog.  I bravely went forth and cut out every cool thing associated with my lost character in the first four chapters, and found it still read pretty good.  The tiny bit where we see the new character was intriguing, not in how it reflected upon Rachel, but on how it reflected upon himself, as short as the passage was.  He was alive in 600 words, his own person, someone who didn’t need Rachel to be fleshed out and important.

I guess what I’m saying, is that if you have to cut, then cut and cut ruthlessly so you can let go and open your creativity completely upon the new.  If you don’t, you will have regret, and regret can lead to a mish-mash that is harder to make into strong, effective writing.  I’m not talking about blending two characters into one, because that can be a capital solution in some cases.  I’m talking about trying to fit a set of responses and rules onto a character they don’t sit well in just so you can keep a passage of writing you like.  (Sorry, I don’t think I’m explaining it very well.)

Do I mind throwing out chapter-size chunks?  Not in rough draft.  I spent very little time (comparatively) on what I’m tossing.  If I had gone over and over and over these chapters to make them perfect, I might be sick at the wasted effort.  That’s why I always tell people to not go back and make changes in earlier chapters when you’re in rough draft.  Just make a note in the margin of the chapter you need to change so you don’t forget, pretend you made the changes, and keep forging ahead.  Rough draft is quick, fast, and dirty, especially for the new writer still evolving his or her method.  Trust me, you will be rewriting this monster several times before publication anyway.  You have chances to tweak and polish.

Do I mind throwing out a chapter once I’m through with rough draft?  Not really, because at this point, there will be a very clear and definite reason for it.  The first and last chapter you guys read is often not the chapter that I’ve been working with for the last two years.  First and last have very definite goals, and they often need to be molded last-minute to reflect changes in the middle.  And that’s okay, too.  ;-)

Nothing is wasted.  I likely won’t ever use the character I’m cutting.  He won’t show up in a short story, and he won’t appear in another series.  But pieces of him will.  ;-)

14 Comments

Filed under Drama Box

14 responses to “With bravery come the spoils of war

  1. Jenn

    Thank you for sharing your writing tips with us. I know that I really appreciate them as I’m still working on honing my craft.
    The fluidity of your work is something that I admire greatly.
    Thanks again for taking the time out of your buys schedule.

  2. SeattleRobin

    Speaking of rough drafts, it’s almost NaNoWriMo time again. Figured I’d mention it in case you wanted to do another blog post about it. After the nudging I got here last year to do it I’m planning on doing it again! (I never did finish the draft from last year, but at least I won NaNo!)

  3. Hi Kim,

    Thanks for sharing these kinds of details about your writing process. It’s incredibly helpful. The way you talk about characters is amazingly interesting. I really didn’t understand it when I first started reading your blog (and before I started writing), but it has really affected the way I think about creating my own characters. That you flesh out these characters in such detail before they even hit the page that you know to take this new one out, rather than modify him or combine him. That you created a character, got him four chapters in, liked him even, and yet will probably never use this character in the future. I can’t explain exactly why these things teach me so much, but they do. And rough draft writing! I think at this point I can’t hear to “just get it out” too many times. I have to fight the habit of editing each sentence as I write it, re-wording each paragraph as I finish it, etc. Anyway, I’ve recently been able to carve out two days a week to get a half day of writing done, and today was one of those days. So reading this post this morning, about characters and the reminder to just get it out, made for a great start to my writing day. So, a genuine thanks.

    I hope your day is great too!

  4. Good morning Mrs. Harrison,

    I don’t think that people understand how much work goes into a book. And, how personally involved the author becomes with his/her work.
    For interest, do you keep all your drafts? (lol, I wrote draughts first. I’d drink mine rather than keep it…)

    Have a great day,

    Alyss

    • Hi Alyssa.
      Do I keep all my drafts? Well . . . yes and no, because there might be up to six of them. I keep all my drafts as electronic copies, but as hard copies I keep my original rough draft, the draft I send to my editor, and the one I send back with her changes. You have a great day, too!

  5. Rebecca

    This is just the reminder I need about my rough drafts. Now, I’ve got to decide if my rough is good enough to run with, no where near done.:/. Hope everything house wise is going well for the fall so far!

  6. I keep my cutouts in a separate file just in case I want to readdress them for a future story. The same goes for my pre-computer writing projects — gods but some of them are downright trite but I hang on to them anyway; they’re good for a laugh.

  7. Antonio

    HeyHey–

    Have you ever come up with a character who doesn’t fit what you’re currently writing, but later finds a home in another story?

    When you sit down to write in the morning, how far back do you re-read what you wrote in the preceding day?

    Be good.😎

    • Hi Antonio. Mmmmm, not so much, but pieces show up. And when I sit down in the morning, I generally don’t read the previous day’s work. If I do, I start to fix things, and I lose an hour.