Thursday, September 16, 2021

Why it's Important to Write Words that End up in the Trash Bin

Don't you wish that every word you write in a draft is the perfect one, stacked carefully one after the other into the next great American novel? I know that I do, but unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), that is just not how drafting works. Drafting is a lovely and messy process in which you, the writer, spend time getting to know these new friends (characters) and their overall need in existing on the page. And it's so important to write words that end up in your computer's trash bin. 

Have you ever had an argument with a friend? I'm not talking about a serious one, but maybe one where you're both feeling a bit snappy after a long day and everyone's feelings got just a little hurt? Think about what that experience did for your friendship. It strengthened it, right? Because you both had to come to the conclusion to keep going with the friendship and apologize. Things got back to normal, but you learned something important about each other. How their voice sounds right before they get really frustrated, or which topics stir up big emotions. Learning about your characters can feel similar in a lot of ways. 

Maybe you won't end up actually arguing with your characters, or maybe you will, but either way, you will learn about them as you spend more time with them. But all the things you learn about them, won't make it into your novel because your reader doesn't need those details. But you do. You have to know which things your character needs desperately enough to leave the comfort of their day-to-day lives. You have to know which topics will stir up their darkest fears and their brightest dreams, and after all my years of writing, the only way I've found to do that is to write the scenes I need to understand my character, but most of those same scenes won't make it anywhere near my final draft and that's okay!

So, dear writer, as you write and work for each word in your draft, know that some of those words are the ones only you need, but they are not wasted. I truly believe that not a single word is wasted in a draft. You and your characters needed that relationship building moment even if your reader does not. So take heart and draft every word you need to tell the story of your dreams. 


Diane Burton said...

So right, April. Sometimes, as I'm writing, I can't think of the right word but don't want to slow down the process to look it up. So, I'll either use a wimpy word (highlighted) or xxx to remind myself what I need to replace. When it's whole paragraphs or pages, I save those "precious darlings" to a leftovers file. I never know what I might need someday. In a draft, you write a hot mess then use revision time to fix it all.

Nancy Gideon said...

Some of my favorite scenes are the ones that never get out of my 1st draft file but they were vital in establishing characterization. It's never wasted . . . especially if you can use them for extra content!