Have you ever written something that just makes you cringe? And not in a good way, I mean. Not like a good fight scene or the anticipation of something bad happening. Those scenes should be worthy of a cringe.
I mean something in your writing that you don’t like, that you don’t want others to read because you could have done it better. Every writer has this at some point, if not all of the time. For me, I am constantly changing things about my drafts because they make me cringe like that.
It’s like a writer’s instinct. Like we have this radar for things in our writing that aren’t good. Things that shouldn’t be there. Like we can only see the mistakes in the story and not the things we should be proud of.
Sometimes. Other times we are just full of ourselves. It comes with the territory.
Personally, there are parts of my book that I love and read over and over again because I’m happy with how I wrote them. That doesn’t happen everyday, when I write something that I’m so happy with that I don’t want to edit it to pieces. So I cherish those parts.
But there are also parts of my book that I don’t like, that I came up with in the rush of trying to get a first draft done. It’s where those cliches come in to mess up this original idea I have.
Let me be clear: we aren’t talking about the nail-biting scary parts of the story that get you on the edge of your seat. Like that one book you can’t bring yourself to go back and reread because you remember the ending and you don’t like where it’s heading. No, we aren’t talking about that. Those books brought emotion to you, as the reader. That’s a good thing. Those books did it right.
We are talking about the parts that don’t make sense. The unoriginal, silly things that could contribute more to the story. The ones that aren’t picking up the slack and are more trouble than they are worth sometimes. Where you, as the writer, want to just roll your eyes and cut it from the draft, but don’t because of that one little part of the scene that is necessary to the overall plot.
Ugh. It takes a lot of effort to edit these parts. It makes me wonder what in the world I was thinking the first time I wrote the book.
If you’ve never found something like this in your writing, I’ll give you an example.
I feel like I’m going to give too much away from my current book if I use that, so this example is a scene in the first book I ever wrote (still unpublished for a reason). In the story, there is a part where the main character is being held against her will in a dungeon. I like the idea, because it gives me a perfect pause in the story for other things to happen, but every time I read it, I cringe. Not because it’s violent or because the reader should be cringing at what is going to happen next, but because it feels so fake.
Remember, this was the first book I wrote, when I tried to go around the problems in the story rather than fix try to them. The people keeping the main character captive are supposed to be vile and intimidating. They are there to scare my character and push her to do something stupid and dangerous. But the dialogue I used… ugh. It’s so fake.
I had a hard time coming up with vile and intimidating dialogue for them since I don’t hear or use it in reality. So that’s a scene that needs some heavy editing. I suck at insults and threats, really. Er go, so did these characters.
I always hear about authors, great authors, who say that they actually hate the book they wrote. That they hate their writing even if everyone else loves it. On one hand, I understand that. We strive for our writing to be perfect, even if it can’t be. We work as hard as we can to make it that way, and that’s why people like it. Even if it’s as close to perfect as it can get, the person who wrote it might still only see the flaws.
So I get it. But on the other hand, why should anyone ever have to hate the thing that they’ve worked so hard on? Yeah, we keep working on it. That’s what drafts are for. But we shouldn’t stop until we are happy with it. Until we can’t find a single problem with the story. A single thing that makes us cringe.
If there is a part in your story that makes you cringe because you think that you could write it better, then make it better. If you don’t, that one little thing is going to bug you every time you read it. It’s not too late to fix it, even if it will take you an extra month to rework everything around it.
I find that the things I always don’t feel like fixing are big-picture problems. Like the characters falling in love too quickly or there’s something in the main story line that is really unrealistic and maybe even statistically impossible. I always want to avoid the big changes that make up the story, even though I regret it later and end up having to backtrack.
I think I’m going to have to rewrite a lot of the beginning to Holding My Breath. I don’t even want to read it. That’s how much it makes me cringe. People who I’ve let read it tell me that it’s great, and I agree. Until you get to chapter two. Then… ugh. I don’t want future-Kelli to look at her published book and scrunch her nose up at the second, fourth, and sixth chapters because they suck.
And that means… well, I have a lot of work to do.
So my challenge for you is not to let yourself take the easy way out. Even if it means that it will take more time, don’t let the parts of your story that you don’t like stay the way they are. Even if it is an entire plot point. Even if it is erasing an entire character. Or rewriting the whole beginning.
Just don’t let it go, thinking that it will be fine. That it’s too late to fix now. That you’ve got a deadline to meet and fixing this problem will be too much work.
We are writers. Not cowards. We don’t back down from our story problems.
Sorry, that was fun to imagine. I can see an army of writers in silver armor in my head and we are all fighting against our stories’ problems. All of those unnecessary characters and invalid plot points. And we have pens instead of swords. He-he.
I’m dreading going back and fixing some of these problems, but I know I’ve just got to get it over with and then I’ll at least have something better to edit. And I know I only dread it because I always cringe at that part of the story. Once I start rewriting I’ll really enjoy it. Like always. And I find that a lot of my mini-rewrites that are necessary throughout the story always tend to be favorite scenes of mine.
I’d advise just going back and reading your story like it’s any other book you’ve picked up off of the shelf. If you ever feel like just skipping to the good part that you know is coming, make a note. Because the part you are at right now probably has a problem with it if it isn’t holding your attention, much less the reader’s. As the writer, every part should be a good part to you.
And if there is ever a part in the story where you feel like putting the book down and reading something else, that’s a bad sign. I mean, you wrote it. Maybe you should want to read it. Maybe it should be interesting enough to at least hold your attention. Maybe, and I’ve just got to throw this out there, what you wrote has a problem in it.
Or maybe it doesn’t. That’s for you to decide and for you to change if you think it needs it.
I know that you are the writer, so you have probably seen every scene a thousand times already. Someone else, your reader perhaps, might be completely engrossed in the story. And you might be bored of it by now. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, okay? First test it on yourself to let your writer’s instinct sniff around for problems and then move on to beta readers.
Just do what you gotta do. Don’t let your readers down or yourself down because you didn’t feel like going backwards instead of forwards. Because really, if you are making your story better, you are always going in the right direction.
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Thank you for reading, and don’t stop writing!
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