I’ve had about a month of simply not writing – barely even writing for the blog, too. As the end of term two approached I was more interested in keeping my head above the water, and then a trip home to Australia ensured my time was occupied with family and friends and food (not necessarily in that order). The days rushed past and I paddled, paddled, paddled to stay moderately afloat.
It was hard work.
It is hard work, because I am still paddling, but things have changed and the paddling is getting a little easier.
On Wednesday something funny happened. A friend said he was writing and I thought why not, so I opened a little novella I’ve been working on and examined the 12,000 words I had compiled.
It was slow-moving. Boring. Ack.
But there was something there.
I stripped it back. I added more. I stripped it again. I repeated this process and now have about 4,000 words of the original content and 6,000 words of new content which, let’s face it, will likely be stripped down again.
Sometimes I feel like there’s a great concern among writers – especially we of the NaNoWriMo ilk – to produce content. We have to hit 50,000 words to have a novel. So we write and write and push and push and when we have the 50,000 words we say: “Yes, I have written a novel.”
We are discouraged from editing during that process, discouraged from not counting every word we produce regardless of how ridiculous a scene might be or how mundane the dialogue exchange. “Keep everything because every word counts!” we chant. I certainly believe that NaNoWriMo and its techniques have a role for writers who simply need to produce and get their ideas out, but what about the stripping down and revising? Have we forgotten that part? The thing is, every word does matter – each word matters in either its presence or absence. Some words need to be absent from the page to best serve your writing.
I’ve been editing, revising, and streamlining my story. Most importantly, after a month of thinking I might drown, I am starting to feel buoyant again. My words have been drowning me, and now I’m choosing which are the bricks of my writing and which are the life jackets.
My writing wish for you this week is for you to choose a story you’ve written or are writing and strip it down. If you’re scared to lose all those words you spilt on the page, don’t be. We need to strip the excess away so we may appreciate quality, not quantity. If you love your words, you’ll know which ones you need to set free and which ones you need to keep so your story can stay afloat.