Let It Grow, Prune It Later: Writing More than You Need

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A few weeks ago I came across this tweet by my friend, neighbor and favorite author:

What? Shannon doesn’t keep every simile? She doesn’t craft them so carefully and perfectly that each and every one is a gem to sigh over?

I think that even though I know better, I’m often guilty of pretending that the way I read a book, from page one to the end, is the way the author wrote the book. After all, authors are so brilliant that the books just fall into their heads fully formed, right? An author whose use of language I admire must use language that beautifully all the time.

Ha ha.

Anyhow, I wanted to share her tweet today because I’ve been thinking of it a lot this week.

I’ve been rewriting “romantic” scenes in my manuscript, which I put in quotes because I really don’t want them to be the equivalent of romance-genre romantic scenes, just subtle teen romance where the angst and electricity is palpable between two characters, you know? And in earlier drafts, the emotion was lacking, so that’s what I’ve been revising for: adding more of the main character’s thoughts and emotions so that we can experience the fall into love with her.

The trouble is, my revisions aren’t so hot. They feel clunky and awkward and cliché. I have to keep reminding myself of the advice another writer friend gave me to “fearlessly write what she’d feel”; it’s amazing how much fear gets in the way.

What am I afraid of? I’m afraid of awful writing — to the point that the fear paralyzes me.

So Shannon’s tweet has been comforting. Maybe I have to overwrite first, explore my character’s emotions in whatever similes and descriptions I can get my hands on, not being too choosy at first. And then later on I’ll get to experience the joy of pruning: taking big ol’ garden shears to my manuscript and lopping off wayward twigs and branches to expose the best ones, until the wild growth of my novel is shaped just the way I want — and will look like it was always meant to be that way.

How much do you let yourself write more than you need? How much do you cut as you go?

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4 responses »

  1. I love that tweet! It’s almost like it was meant for me. 🙂

    I’m doing Nano right now, and I’m way overwriting. Partly because I’m exploring a new world, new characters, and new themes. How can I write a convincing world if I’m standing at the brink dipping my toe in? I need to dive in and tread water until I almost drown, that way I’ll know just what it tastes like…and feels like and smells like and is like. And I’ll know just how the characters feel about it too.

    I’m breaking every single one of my editing rules. ON PURPOSE. I’m using adverbs. (And I’m liking it. Shh, don’t tell anyone.) I’m glutting up the place with description and simile. I’m Way overdoing it. But it allows me to whistle in the dark at that fear you talked about. It’s easy to be scared when you’re tiptoeing, but when you’re clomping around the place, fear kind of steps back. Then as I discover and understand my characters and story better, I’ll tone it down. Then when I go back to edit and shape the thing I’ll chop out all the gunk and hopefully have something good. Hopefully.

    Oh, and to be completely honest, overwriting sure helps with the word count. *wink*

    Like

    • Haha, yes, this is probably a great post for NaNo. But your description is fantastic. I love that idea of tiptoeing vs clomping to trample your own fears. I will do that! Thanks for the encouragement, as always. 😀

      Like

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