Falling in Love With Your Own Writing

Joe’s Post #177

Listen to what Boromir says.

Listen to what Boromir says.

Is there anything better than falling in love? What about falling in love with your writing? Is that a good thing?

Well, no. No, it’s not.

It’s something I’ve been struggling with as I rewrite my novel, Yager’s War, for submission.

Set in 1940, it tells the story of a Chicago detective in Holland trying to find his missing sister before the Germans invade.

When I first wrote it, it had more of a mystery feel. Dead bodies. Gun battles. Lots of tough guy talk. Some hot sex. But from my writing group and my dedicated readers, it became clear that I needed to shift it a bit, and focus on the humanity of the story. Less Jack Reacher and more Gorky Park.

Why? Because I’m trying to write a deeper story. A story with emotional weight.

I spent a TON of time reworking my first 50 pages to see if I could hit this goal, and after many tears, much staring off into space, and a lot of bugging a published writer friend of mine, I think I finally got the right feel to the story. Good pacing. Some heart. Compelling characters in a compelling story.

If my novel was a kitchen, this is what I would like it to look like.

If my novel was a kitchen, this is what I would like it to look like.

For most of 2017, I’ve been hard at work recrafting the rest of the novel to be as good as those first 50 pages. It’s been hard and, frankly, a lot of the novel has been totally rewritten. It’s sort of like doing a kitchen renovation where all you want to do is replace the sink and end with redoing the counters, cabinets, floors, lights and adding a 75” TV, cuz every kitchen should have one.

But perhaps the toughest part has been letting go of some of my best writing. There was one scene that I loved. I loved writing it the first time. I loved reading it the second time. And the third.

It was powerful. It was emotional. Hell, I think I even gotz all the grammar right.

But here’s the horrible truth, a truth that we writers must face sometimes.

It no longer works.

The story has evolved in such a way that this beautifully written passage was no longer relevant.

It’s very sad.

It was hard to let it go.

But then I remembered what someone told me about letting go of things I’d collected in my house. You know, the sentimental things – the ashtray that my mom used to use, the chair my grandfather made that was now nearly in tatters, the 10,000 VCR tapes that I’d collected over the years… the things to which you attach memories, the things that have meaning but take up an awful lot of space and you no long need.

Well, someone said take a picture of those items so you’ll always have the memory. And, you know what? That worked like a charm. A friend saved me from being a hoarder.

So I applied the same principal to that nice bit of writing. I didn’t take a picture of it, but cut it out of the story and pasted it into a file called, “Things Joe Can’t Delete but Loves.” Like my original Sim City from, like, 1989 which hides somewhere in my computer games file.

Doing this allows me to move on.

And, hey, it can be resurrected.

And, hey, it can be resurrected.

In my mind, I imagine my kids looking at this after I die and saying, my goodness, Joe REALLY could write. Who knew?

Rest in Peace, Good Writing.

Rest in Peace.

5 thoughts on “Falling in Love With Your Own Writing

  1. I love this post, Joe. I can relate. Letting go, or ‘kill your darlings’ as we are often advised, is one of the hardest things we writers have to do. Over and over. But filing it away for later use, (or for posterity if we are optimists) eases the pain a little.

  2. I have a file called “Bits n Bobs” and another called “Bits to Ponder” which contains things that may or may not make it back into the WIP. Probably not. But I enjoy going through now and then and thinking, “Hey, that’s not half bad!”

  3. Joe Joe Joe! Thanks so much for this — a terrific post just dripping with The Awful Truth. I went to an author reading a couple of weeks ago, Gail Anderson-Dargatz whose book “The Spawning Grounds” is my book club’s next read. It turned into a talk about writers’ dilemmas (this being Saltspring Island, about half of the attendees were either writers or wannabes), and she shared the shocking tally of her written words versus the final word count of the book. Words actually published: about 120,000. Words in her saved-but-not-used file: about 600,000. And for those among us who suffer nighttime sweats of anguish over the lengthy book birthing process, she conceived of this story 30 years ago; when she finally started to write, she spent 9 years on it. That kind of helps normalize the still-painful process of “killing our darlings.” So good to see a post from you here and know you’re busy writing the good write!

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