Every morning I spend thirty minutes or so scrolling through posts from fellow writers who contribute in Facebook groups geared toward writers. And every morning I read posts from those who are at the point in their novel where they want to scrap it and never look back. If you are like most of us, you know exactly what I am talking about. Maybe you have even done this in the past.
What I want you to realize is that in most instances, this has more to do with fear than it does reality. Do not let fear stomp on your dream!
Five reasons you should not give in to the desire to trash your work in progress:
One: In the first draft you are telling yourself a story. You already know the background of your characters. You see them in your mind. However, the reader cannot see them unless their movements in a particular place and time get onto the page. What you see but do not relay creates gaps in your writing. This means that for the reader there is just this talking being hanging out in a void. Do not scrap your WIP because characters seem flat. You know where they are. When you revise, build their world so the reader knows, as well. You also know what they are doing. Are they scratching an itch? Writing in a notebook? Looking destitute with their back against the wall of the local high school? Tell us.
Two: Pushing through the feeling of inadequacy gives you a great opportunity to build a new character for the manuscript (or an idea for a new one). That feeling of fear, of never being able to get it right? Do not give it to it. Instead, name it. Does it make you feel like you did that time in junior high when a bully picked you up and put you in a trash can? What was the bully’s name? Project the fear onto him, and put him in a novel. Then torture him or kill him or make him a jilted lover. Whatever your genre, there is a way to make him suffer.
Three: You are too close to the work. Instead of hitting the delete key, set it aside and work on something else. Setting a first draft of any work aside for a few days or a few months is a good idea, but it is especially important when you want to throw it in the trash. Longer periods of separation is better for work you currently hate. Trying to revise to soon will likely end badly. When you return to the work, I recommend printing it out and reading it aloud. Make notes as you go. Should it start somewhere else in the novel? Where is the inciting incident? Why is it important? Are the right characters in the right places? Are you using the right POV? The right genre? What happens if you give a character a different name? Did you ground the reader in space and time?
Four: You must approach your craft like any other artist approaches his or her craft. If you are building a creation out of sand, painting a landscape with water colors, or chiseling a form from a piece of stone, you must first envision, second create outlines, and third add the detail that makes it come alive. Words are your medium. Mold them on the paper in a rough design, let it marinate, and then, only then, return to it with the fine chisel. If you throw your WIP in the trash, you are stunting your own growth as an author, which can only be enhanced through moving through the entire process.
Five: Many writers before you have felt their work was trash. Let that sink in for just a minute. Did you know that Stephen King said he didn’t know anything about teen girls, and therefore should scrap the idea and beginning of the manuscript that later became “Carrie?” Yeah. Stephen King. There is that.
When a voice deep inside tells you that your work isn’t good enough, dig deeper. Find that voice that got you started in the first place, the one that wants this more than anything. Let that voice beat down the self-doubt monster. Do it by putting words on the page every single day. While one WIP is resting in a drawer, start another one, or write a blog, or read a book and jot down what the writer did well.
Do you have other ideas for staying motivated when fear is beating at the door? I would love to hear from you.
If you are a Facebook junkie and love connecting to fellow writers, these are some of my favorites:
10 minute novelists: 10 Minute Novelists are an international group of time-crunched writers with big, big dreams and very little time. Named by Writer’s Digest as one of the Top 100 Sites for Writers in 2016! [Description from their site.]
The Red Pen Club: A dedicated group of experienced manuscript editors (prose and poetry) helping writers reach their goals through tips and resources. [Description from their site.]
Writers Helping Writers: Writers Helping Writers is a place for Becca and Angela to share extraordinary links that will help writers with key writing or publishing-related concepts. We welcome focused conversation on writing craft. [Description from their site.]
Aspiring Authors: If your dream is to become a published storyteller (novelist, screenwriter, poet, short story writer etc.), you’ve come to the right place! [Description from their site.]