What is Crap Today May Be Gold Tomorrow
Nearly all of us suffer from 'oh my god, what was I thinking, this is awful' syndrome, I am sure. For those who might not, this is when we read something we have written and decide it is absolute dross and should never see the light of day ever again. It can happen for several reasons:
- what we have written is absolute dross (it happens to us all, don't lie :))
- we have been looking at our writing far too long and have come to hate it
- the part we are reading simply does not fit the story we are writing.
However, I am here to give one simple piece of advice:
If this feeling seems to apply to the whole of the current WiP, I can all but guarantee we are suffering from #2. It's writing fatigue, pure and simple. The only way to cure this is to step away from the work. Giving it a few days, working on something unrelated, can often clear this problem right up.
If this feeling applies just to a scene or two, it could be any of the above.
Just occasionally #1 strikes:
- we lose our skill with words, or
- we have a brainwave that was clearly brought on by a delusion, or
- we wrote it while drunk or under the influence of cold medication.
It can happen, but I still say, don't delete it.
Cut it out by all means, but don't throw it away. Save it somewhere, because it is impossible to tell if there might be a tiny bit of a gem in the scene(s) that might come in handy later. Sometime there is gold in all the ca-ca, even if we can't see it glinting right away.
Once again, if it's #2 the only solution is to leave it for a while and come back later.
Then there is #3:
Occasionally we writers get carried away. An idea pops into our heads and we write it to the nth degree. Our readers do not always need to know everything we have written. However, it is a good idea never to throw away these flights of fancy. Yes, rip them out of the main narrative, but they might come in handy later:
- if it is background info, keep it in the info file/database so it can be referenced later
- if it is simply a scene that is pointless in the current story, file it away in case a similar scene is needed in another one. It can always be reworked to fit the new plot or it might just be great inspiration for a new scene further down the line.
It's the same with all those ideas scribbled down in an instant, but never developed. Don't throw them away; we can never know when they might come in handy.
I'll let you into a secret - I never delete a writing file and I start a new version of files if I am making large changes rather than just adding to what I have already written. Every work has a folder and in this folder is the current file and a directory called old files, which holds everything which is not current.
Now this is probably overkill - I am a pack-rat by nature. A lot of these files are never touched again, but is also means I never lose anything. I even have a whole directory called concepts just for those files that contain a few scenes or a plot outline. I'm not suggesting you do the same :) - just that you don't discard things out of hand.
What seems terrible today, might still be terrible tomorrow, or it might turn out to be pure genius. It's really not always possible to tell on the day. At the very least don't delete it unless you are very, very sure, and definitely don't delete something in a fit of pique :).