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Writer’s Loss

Cutting out scenes is much easier than changing them. I’m not just talking about how much time it takes. When I simply cut a scene, it still exists. It’s as if I could put out a special extended edition story, like they do on DVD. But when I thoroughly change it, the old scene is destroyed by the new one. Many pretties are lost, not because they didn’t do their job well in their place, but because they no longer do.

At one time, those sentences poured from our fingers in a rush of understanding exactly what we thought the story needed there, be it information or an emotional tug. It made me jump up after a short time, almost too excited to write. Weeks later, when I read the words again, I can hardly believe they are mine.

But months later, when I’ve seen a flaw in the story that needs to be fixed, those sentences become a description that no longer applies, or a thing that should no longer happen, or maybe it’s just in the wrong place, but in the right place it no longer fits. So out they go, children of my mind, no longer needed.

I save nearly every draft that has undergone a lot of revision, just for this reason. I can’t let go. I’m a packrat of words I’ll never read and never reveal to the world. At least not until I’ve become so famous that some university library will want to collect them so that they can become fodder for the thesis of some hapless graduate student.

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  1. The boxes of writing that I am going through to file away contain many of such tidbits. Fragments of poetry that are not enough to stand alone, but that are too pretty to throw away. Here’s a challenge for you…take a handfull of your cast offs and make a story with them. I was given an assignment similar to that in a writers’ class once. Everyone in the class wrote down a word on a piece of paper and put it in a hat…we had to write a poem that used one of the words in every line. It made for some interesting poetry, some of it not too bad. It was a very good exercise…made us look at things in a different light.

  2. I save over drafts as I write them. Words, as far as I can tell, are not precious. I kill them with merciless abandon. It has been a hard lesson to learn.

    I also don’t want people looking back on old, crappy drafts and seeing my process. To hell with historical accuracy; I’d rather them think me a genious right out of the gate.

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