I’ve learned many things over the years as I’ve completed, revised, and trashed multiple manuscripts. Today I have three general lessons to share with you about deleting your work, word count, and dialogue.
1. Deleting gets easier.
My current WIP started off at 92,000 words. I went through about six drafts, cutting and trimming each go, and it currently sits at 85,000 words. Because of my inevidable anxiety issues when it comes to deleting those hard earned words, I copy and paste into a new file (giving me one unblemished version in case I change my mind later, so I never delete anything for good.) and hack away. At first I was trimming 500-1000 words per draft, (after I finished with major revisions) but by the sixth draft, I wasn’t as attached to my work. Instead of debating over every little sentence I thought was brilliant when I wrote it, I could almost immediately recognize when something needed to be cut.
It gets easier.
And you have to delete.
I threw out a lot of passages that I thought were beautiful and showed off my skills as a writer. And that’s why I had to cut them. My novel isn’t about bragging about how well I can write. It’s about the story. Those frivolous passages were not furthering my story; therefore, they got the axe.
2. Word Count: Who Cares?
Don’t look at your word count or page count when you’re writing. It doesn’t matter. You can deal with the technicalities when you’re finished, but for now, don’t write for the sake of words or pages. Write what you need to tell the story. Worry about length later.
3. Dialogue: Go with your gut.
By the time I sit down to write, I know my character so well that I’m one of those crazy people who hears voices in her head. I can hear my characters clearly, and I know exactly how they talk and what they’d say in certain situations. I never have to force my dialogue. I don’t force them to have dialects or use slang that they wouldn’t use to give them a unique voice. I let their conversation flow, and let the characters say what they want to say with no forcing on my part.
If you’re having trouble writing realistic dialogue, spend your time on character work—really getting to know your characters—and then try again. Don’t try to force natural conversation. Voice is not something you can force.
What have you learned about writing through trial and error? Share your thoughts!