August 8, 2012

Not One Word Is Wasted

I am a very wordy writer. Now when I say this I don't mean that my books are filled with lots and lots of unecessary words, pages and pages of lengthy description, reams of paragraph-long, rambling dialogue, or irrevelant scenes (at least I hope not, but I suppose you all will let me know once my book comes out if I'm delusional here *grins*). What I mean is that I have to write A LOT of words to get to the ones that will one day make it into the final draft of one of my manuscripts. I have to meander down a lot of paths that lead nowhere, write scenes that I know I'm probably going to cut even as I'm still writing them. AND I'm not even a panster type writer. I'm a dedicated outliner. For every manuscript I've managed to finish there's at least as many words I've deleted as kept, usually much, much more. That's why it takes me a minimum of seven or more months to complete one story.

I wish it wasn't true.

 I wish that the first words I put to paper every day were pure gold, genius in ink form, but they are SO not. The real work for me as a writer is plodding through all of those unecessary, wrong words to get to the right ones. I HAVE to write out back story and take lots of wrong turns to get to the heart of my real story and its characters. I won't know either well enough to make them authentic otherwise. BUT it never fails to make me nervous and sometimes self critical. Some part of me will always believe that the process should be faster...if I were better organized, or more creative, or just, well, BETTER in general at what I do.

But what I'm finding is that the process is what it is. The only way to get a good book written is to write the bad version of it first--at least for me and I'm pretty sure one or more of you out there reading this.

Now I try to think of writing a story as climbing a giant staircase with an end so far into the sky that at first I can't even see it.

 I can't jump to the top, it's too high. I can't skip steps because they're too widely spaced. I have to put one foot in front of the other and take EVERY single step until I get to the top.There will be lots of times when I'll be out of breath, frustrated, and sure that the top doesn't exist-- that it's a staircase with no end that leads absolutely NOWHERE--and I'll sit down and have a good cry and contemplate staying right where I am or worse, going back the way I came without ever reaching the top.

 BUT then I'll think about the view all the way up there--which is panoramic and rich with landscapes I wasn't even sure were possible until I finished my first book--and I'll start climbing all over again, grateful that at least I'm not starting from the bottom. I'm halfway there. Every step forward tips the scales closer to done.

Not one word that I've written was wasted.Not one word that YOU've written was wasted.

Not one.

Every word that we write, usuable or not is part of a necessary step on the staircase that leads us to our finished books. We have to place our feet on those steps, to feel their rough, uneven terrain. It's the only way to get where we're going, to reach the heights ahead. The only way our words will have been wasted is if we never use them to MOVE FORWARD.


  1. Great post - I really battle with this. I hate writing pages upon pages of a story only to read it back and feel like I have just wasted hours of my day because none of it is any good and/ or makes no sense.

    I really battle to let go of these seemingly worthless pages and hours ... but it is helpful to look at it as a process, as steps up a ladder that will ultimately lead us to the top - where the words are meaningful and the sentences are well constructed.

    I just hate that there are so many damn steps to the top!

    1. It's taken me a looooong time to be okay with it too! And some days I still fail to talk myself down, but it's definitely getting easier with each book.

  2. YES. Thank you for writing this. It's so hard not to compare yourself with other writers -- that person wrote their book in a month! Why can't I? But I'm starting to see that everyone's process is different and being a slow writer doesn't make me a bad one.

    1. I know! When I hear that someone's written three books in a year I want to curl up and cry...but my speed is my speed and I only hurt myself by trying to be like everyone else because I know I can't deliver the best book possible in less than seven months right now.

  3. Thank You for the reminder to move forward. I'm plodding through revision, and cutting all that beautiful excess and getting so tired of it. I almost want to quit, to just leave it as is with all the literary equivalent of doodles scribbled all over it. But I really do want this to be finished, real world finished, not hidden in a file somewhere finished. And for that, I must move forward.

  4. The finishing makes this part so worth it. Good for you! KEEP GOING! And keep me updated on your progress:-)