The hard part

Dear reader, and perhaps fellow-writer,

Everyone seems to know that writing, be it a short story or a book, is easy.Until you sit down and start writing it.

I’ve seen examples of this. Yes, writing can be difficult, when your characters stand on the page and look at you, waiting for a clue what to do next. When you get lost in your own intrigues and desperately try to find a way out of the web you’ve woven.

Is that the hard part of writing? No. The hard part comes when you dive into the finished story which has been staring at you as the famous ‘first draft’. You pick up the thing, a few days, weeks or even months after writing it, to get a bit of distance from it. And you read it. You try to follow the line you originally laid out. And then you face the dread: things don’t match, don’t work. People pop up in the wrong place and days are too long.

That is where the hard part of writing comes in: you have to rework your story. You have to cut into what you thought was so carefully wrought. Things need to be moved, remove, altered.

You will have to stab at your story. Butcher it – or so it may feel. But with every flick of the writer’s knife, each sentence that gets examined, changed, removed or replaced, the work will become better. It is difficult. You may have to sacrifice the parts you were most proud of. If you find parts and paragraphs like that, save them somewhere. You never know when you may need something brilliant like that, later.

You’ll see that, after your massacre, the work comes out better. Smoother. The people are where they’re supposed to be, and the strange day you came up with, where the morning was too long and the afternoon was rushed through, now is a balanced, normal day.

It’s painful, but it is worth the agony.

Paul

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