November 1, 2011

Words Are Cheap

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 10:26 am
Tags: , , , ,

My creative writing teacher once told me that about 10% of what anyone writes is usually any good. So don’t get too attached to your words. I nodded sagely, thinking I knew it all. I had, after all, edited my first novel. I knew all about killing my darlings, or so I thought.

But then I tried something new: branching conversations for computer games. It was hard. I spent hours plodding over the characters, their motivations, the plots and what I wanted the outcomes of the conversations to be, not to mention how to get there. Finally, I got a decent draft done, I looked it over, and I knew I could make it shine. Proudly, I shared it with my significant other, who, being an honest and insightful man, mentioned the one thing that I hadn’t noticed: the plot didn’t match what the assignment asked for.

And I got pissed. Hell, I went through the five stages of grief before I could let those words go. I’d poured all my creative energy into that draft, and I knew this was what my characters wanted to happen. If it was a novel, I’d hold on to that plot for dear life, so how could I start from scratch? Turns out the answer is easy: you just have to save the original, lie to yourself and claim that you might be able to use it for something later, and move on.

This might sound sad, at least if you’re a writer, but it is sound advice. Especially for us who’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year. Because if only 10% of what you write is good, then there’s no need to nitpick across your draft while you’re writing. Just let it flow. And even if only 10% of those 50K are good, those 5K will be awesome.

Oh, and about that: the clock is ticking! What am I doing over here? See you later guys! Good luck!



  1. It’s not always a lie you have to tell yourself. You will be surprised what becomes useful salvage years later, that one sentence you loved, that you had to write a whole, unnecessary scene in a bad short story to justify including, that you eventually, grudgingly had to cut–becomes an awesome first line for a much more awesome prologue in an epic poem you write years later.

    Bury the dead, but know you’ll see them someday. Grave-robbing is a part of this gig.

    Comment by scrivnomancer — November 2, 2011 @ 11:22 am | Reply

    • I hope this is true. 🙂

      “Grave-robbing is part of this gig” – I like it!

      Comment by nascentnovelist — November 2, 2011 @ 2:45 pm | Reply

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