“Just let it go.”
That’s not something any author wants to hear about their darling character, or their clever plot twist, or their funny scene. But, sometimes, our desire to hold on to something is holding our story back.
I’m speaking from personal experience here. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and I like things to be done right the first time. So, when I finished my first draft of my work in progress, I thought I was done! Well, for maybe just a few minutes. Once the moment had some time to sink in, I realized what I had created was not what I had set out to make, and so began the long, arduous editing process that I am still working through today.
To be fair, I made things hard on myself. I couldn’t let go. I put so much work into this thing, and even while I knew it wasn’t what I wanted I didn’t really want to change anything major. I went on like this for some time, but in the end it was like I had run up against a wall: major things were going to have to change, or I was going to have to give up on this book all together.
And so, I saved a PDF file of my draft and then hesitantly set out on my editing journey with the mindset that anything and everything could change. I don’t say I got the hang of it quickly, but slowly but surely I found myself scrapping those troublesome scenes and reworking the plot points entirely – and magic happened: the book was becoming what I had always wanted it to be all along.
Throughout this [painful] process, I got results by asking myself these sorts of questions:
- Why is this character in this scene?
- What significance does this have on the overall plot?
- What purpose does this thing/character/moment serve?
- If I took this out, would it affect anything?
- How does this affect the main character or the plot, if at all? And if it doesn’t affect anything, get rid of it!
- What are the motivations of each character here?
So, if you’re finding yourself stuck in a scene, take a step back and ask yourself some of these questions. Chances are, you won’t have a good answer for one or two of them (numbers 1 and 6 got me most often) – and if you don’t have an answer, get ready to tweak that scene, or be ready to just let go.
What do you think about this self-editing process? How do you self-edit? Join the conversation below!
PS: DON’T EVER DELETE YOUR WORK! (And yes, I do mean to be screaming that. 😛 ) Even if it is total crap, save it. Maybe you won’t need it, but in the least you can get a good laugh later – and that is better than realizing too late that you’d rather have it!