Project #3/OFBB – Time to Get Ruthless

The last I posted, I was talking about being overwhelmed by WIPs, and, let’s be honest, that’s still the case. This is definitely a place I’ll be in perhaps forever. We have good months and we have bad months; in the good months, I can wrangle enough of my WIPs to get things heading towards their next completed drafts; during the bad months, I go through eight different WIPs over the course of the day and maybe give each a new sentence before moving along. Maybe one day I’ll figure out a proper remedy for not being overwhelmed by my WIPs, but that’s certainly not something I’m getting to right now.

Somehow, however, amongst the chaos, I actually managed to get three more drafts of Project #3 completed. I completed the first a couple of months ago, then the second I got done at the beginning of August, and I thought I would be content to let it sit for a while. I think letting drafts breathe at certain points is the best way to write; time away can help you deal with plot holes, it helps you see typos when you return, it can offer a fresher perspective on things that are going well and things that could be strengthened. I tend to give all my drafts at least a couple of weeks where I don’t go through the manuscript at all, whether that be editing or simply reading it, because that’s definitely how I write best.

And yet when I finished that draft, I missed the world, the characters, the story itself. I didn’t want to go away, I didn’t want to leave it even for a few weeks. I wanted to go straight back in and get right back at it. This was, I thought, a good sign; if it’s a world I don’t want to leave, then hopefully that means I’m onto something that other people will enjoy as well. I always like to think what you feel as an author will be amplified by a reader; you know this story, the turns it will take, the twists, the feelings, the places it’s going, and for someone who is reading your work and doesn’t know these things, then whatever you’re feeling will be felt more strongly by a reader. So, in that vein, if I want to be back amongst these characters almost immediately after leaving them behind, then hopefully readers will feel the same, if not even more strongly.

I also think I was encouraged back because I have created an imaginary deadline for when I want this story in its most-completed form (and I say most-completed because art, as I’m sure many people know, is never quite finished. Would I say it gets abandoned, I don’t know, that feels harsh. But what I do believe is that art is never finished, it just reaches a state where more tweaks are either out of your capability or they’re not going to change the course of the story enough for them to matter any longer). As this deadline slowly approaches, it means I want to be in the story more, working on this manuscript and refining it enough until it reaches a state where it can be shared. I still think there will be times where I need to let it sit, but I also want to keep working on it too, strengthening it with every draft.

With this latest draft, it was time to get cruel. What I mean by that is, when you want to make it stronger, you have to make tough decisions. At the minute, I’m at 110,000 words, and a fair few thousand of those will probably have to go, so that’s where I have to get ruthless. Unnecessary adjectives, adverbs that don’t help, sentences that run on that could be shortened, all these are aspects that need refining. Sometimes, there are sentences or paragraphs that need to go altogether. Being creative means, as things get on, you have to be ruthless with the art you’re putting out into the world. It’s not always easy, but it’s certainly necessary.

Am I good at it? I actually think I can be. I think I can see the unnecessary, bloated sentences and extra adjectives that aren’t helpful and adverbs that can be strengthened with better verbs. I think it’s something I am good at, something I can do moderately well when it comes to manuscripts. I believe I am able to see my own work in a somewhat objective way and decide what needs to go and what needs to be refined and what I am doing well too, which, I wholeheartedly believe, is important. You need to work on your weaknesses, but certainly don’t forget to commend yourself for your strengths.

But is it something I am great at? Well, that’s entirely another question. Supposedly, you have to kill your darlings, right? You have to get rid of those phrases you love, tear out those sentences that bring you joy, obliterate scenes of dialogue that don’t move the story along. They’re darlings for a reason, and they’re hard to kill. I think I’m good at it, but I don’t know if I’m great at it.

That’s why multiple drafts are helpful, I think, that’s why letting things sit can be so beneficial. With time away, you can see the darlings you need to keep and the darlings that, unfortunately, you might have to brutally slaughter. Sometimes you have to get rid of entire characters and plots, but I don’t think I’m quite there just yet. With time, I might be able to kill more, but it’s arguably the hardest part about writing. Well, hardest after actually getting projects in completed drafts in the first place some might argue.

So that’s what this most recent draft has consisted of. We are almost completely out of brackets now (which is how I move past sections I’m not ready to write yet, that’s how I block scenes and chapters I’ll come back to later). The only bracketed sections we have left are really descriptions for characters where I have those descriptions at home, a place I’m still not yet at. The second I am there, those brackets will go and we’ll know the true, final word count before we have to get even more ruthless with every draft that follows. I can’t imagine we’re going to stray too far over the 110,000 word count unless I have a bout of inspiration for something this story needs that requires heavy, additional words. So, ultimately, it means what we’re doing now is cutting words out, and that’s where those darlings will have to go.

It’s certainly a process that takes time, and it’s time I don’t mind putting in. There are so many different aspects to writing, we have researching then there’s the actual writing, then there’s the editing and the reading, it’s a long process that takes a lot of effort, a lot of willpower, and sometimes, working through a lot of frustrations and difficulties, it’s a true test of one’s perseverance. But I simply adore writing, I love even the really difficult parts and so, even though there are some darlings I do not want to kill, I will spend this time between drafts sharpening that knife because we have to cut some words out, and so some of those darlings are going to have to go.

I will be taking a short break now between drafts. I absolutely will come back to it again before the end of the year, hopefully even a couple of times, but I cannot state enough how important it is to let drafts sit and breathe. You need to alter your focus now and again so that you’re not looking upon your works with the exact same mindset each time you’re working on your next draft, changes in your perspective are how you make improvements to your works. So I shall be letting it sit as I attempt to wrangle other drafts of different manuscripts or, better yet, perhaps I’ll even not write at all for a few weeks. But let’s be real, I’ve never quite been someone who can put writing down for a long stretch of time. I’m certain you’re meant to, but I haven’t yet managed something like that, I simply haven’t found the willpower yet to pull myself away from writing completely; when I finish one project I’m instantly going into another. Maybe one day I’ll experience what it’s like to take a true break from writing but I’m certain that will come after I am a published author. So, for the moment, I’ll be diving in to something else until I decide I’m ready to ruthlessly kill those darlings.

Robyn x

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