by Rebecca Cantrell
First off, happy New Year!
In the tail end of 2011 I had a writing exercise included in the writing book Now Write: Mysteries: Suspense, Crime, Thriller, and Other Mystery Fiction Exercises from Today’s Best Writers and Teachers (no, I don’t know how I snuck in).
I’m quite happy with the exercise I submitted, entitled rather prosaically “Murder from the Point of View of the Murderer, Victim, and Detective,” but the exercise I wanted to write was about letting go in your work, about giving yourself permission to throw words away.
Don’t get me wrong. I love some of my sentences just as much as the next writer. I’ve let go giant subplots that I still mourn (remember Hannah’s brother, Ernst? He used to talk from beyond the grave and those were great scenes).
I think throwing words away is a hard lesson for most writers to learn, and it was for me. It’s easy to get caught up in your perfect words. Revisions were hard for me until a friend told me that when she revised her novel it felt like “losing a child.” That shocked me out of my own over-attachment to any word in my story.
Because writing is about using words to transport people into your world. If the words are wrong and the world isn’t clear, the words have to change. Period. It’s just part of the process, like hitting the Shift key at the beginning of a sentence. And it doesn’t have to hurt.
This year I’m giving us all permission to write and revise joyfully. Sometimes the act of putting down words on paper knowing that they can change, they will change, they are not set in stone, is the only thing that gives me the courage to put down words on paper at all. Like Nora Roberts said, “You can fix anything but a blank page.”
Fill those blank pages up with words, then have fun fixing them!