Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Writing and Trash?

I prefer not to read trash so I certainly am not inclined to write it. That’s not what this blog is about.  This is about writing. Someone recently asked me how I keep up the writing. Do I ever just “not feel like writing?” Sure.

I was trying to think of a good metaphor to explain my writing schedule. I could compare it to exercise. You just do it on a regular basis, inspired or not.

In fact, I have often treated my writing as an exercise. For example, I looked at the topics Chicken Soup for the Soul was going to publish and wrote a story for the next three titles. I sent them in and the result? I had a story published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive in October 2012. It’s called “The Roller Coaster” if you’re interested. Not a bad exercise.

I often write out short devotionals taken from my daily Bible reading. These provide not only an exercise in writing for me, but help me make sense of what I am reading. (By the way, don’t read Proverbs during a Presidential election year. It will drive you crazy. Actually Proverbs through Lamentations should be avoided during the election season, even if Isaiah offers a glimpse of hope eternal. Just saying.)

 Maybe, for me, a better comparison is cooking dinner. Every day as a wife, I plan and cook dinner. Take that back. Every day I feel responsible to plan and cook dinner. I love to cook. I like figuring out heart healthy meals for my husband that are delicious. Some recipes are great. Tom will eat and say, “Make that again!” Other times, we will try something new and after dinner decide to trash the idea for future meals.

I am not always inspired to cook, but we are always inspired to eat. And the more I cook, the better I cook. My writing is like that. I write. I sit down, turn the computer on and write. When I worked on my Master’s thesis, one of my advisors told me to write five pages every day. She said even if I read it later and trashed every bit of it, I would be better off than if I waited for the perfect words to come. She was right.

Now I write every day. Just engaging in the process gets my creative juices flowing. I know I will make cuts, but I also know I will be able to salvage bits and pieces even on those days I felt totally uninspired to write.

You may remember in my blog about understanding the backstory, I said that Jack Cavanaugh had suggested I remove the first chapter in my book, Breathing on Her Own, and weave the backstory into the rest of the book. I wound up “trashing” the first two chapters.

I can hear you now. You can’t throw away those beautiful words you put on paper. I understand. I don’t literally trash them either. I cut and paste them into a separate file called "discarded text." I still have all of that information. I may need it in the future. Or not. But what I know is this: If I want to be a professional writer, I cannot think of every sentence I forge as sacred.

Now to the question I have promised to address on Word Count Wednesday. Where am I today? 43,157 words written, but I am starting to think about several places where I need to make some cuts. As for my characters? They have no idea I'm about the pull the rug out from under them. Write and revise, write and revise...it's a curious cycle.


  1. The first novel I ever wrote I wrote for 9-12 year olds. One of my former instructors critiqued its first five pages and then asked me how long the book was. I told her 225 pages. "Too long for your proposed readership. Cut it to 160 pages." So I did. With a huge groan, I threw out several entire chapters. Ouch!Don't know if that trashing improved the book or not.

    1. Sure it was even better. AND you had a sequel started!

  2. The same exercise can apply to my painting. Do a bit everyday...some efforts will be "trashed" (or painted over), others will be turned into beautiful works of art.

    I am so happy for you...your first published novel! That's a huge achievement.

    1. Thank you, Jane. I checked out your blog. Great insights! Keep painting. By the way I am sitting here looking at a picture of a lion my Mother-in-law painted...over a previous painting she decided wasn't what she wanted. Never thought about it as a revision! Thanks.


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