Hold on Tight - Never Let Go

littleniece

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You wrote a sentence or phrase or paragraph of "stand alone" literary excellence. It was so good you just couldn't help but to build narrative or dialog around it, expand upon it, follow it where it led you in your novel. But don't look now. The objective critiques you receive question the importance or effectiveness of its presence, or how it doesn't advance or even detracts from your story. Now what? You're faced (like I am) with the daunting and defeating monster of the delete key. How do you garner the courage to touch it? How do you loosen your grip on those singular treasures of your creativity and move forward?
 

Ink-Soul

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Ideally, everything we put in our stories would serve to move the plot forward or illustrate something about the characters or the world. But I believe that we can indulge in favouritism once in a while. Even if your phrase or paragraph doesn't need to be there, you may want to leave it because of its significance for you as the author. As long as it doesn't contradict the story and it's not overly long or boring, I don't think it's going to do much harm. (But if it does harm the story, you might prefer to garner that courage and press the dreadful delete key!)
 

Thecla

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Cut and paste into a different file. Something is moved but nothing is lost. See how the original copes without it. Give it time. Give yourself time to acclimatise to the new version. If, after that time, you still prefer the original, then cut and paste the moved text back again.

Never delete anything, by the by. Saving different, properly labelled, versions of a story is another thing entirely.
 

onesecondglance

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Create a new document and name it "deleted scenes". Move the stuff you're cutting there. They're not deleted, just separated from the main text. You can get them back any time you want.

How much you cut and pare back your prose is a matter of style. Plain, unadorned writing has been in vogue for a long while now, and whatever your personal preference, it's worth studying and practising this style - tightening is always a useful skill.
 

Maryn

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Another voice for creating a document titled Deletions-BookTitle for every novel.

No deleting scenes or even paragraphs. Cut and paste. You won't lose anything.

Oh, and I strongly urge you to copy your present draft, call it BookTitle2ndDraft or something similar, and make changes only to it, not your original. You might find that something you've changed but not deleted was better the old way.

Maryn, grizzled veteran of many, many drafts
 

NickyRainbow

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Great advice above! I go as far as to keep all my drafts together in the same Scrivener project (though I have several versions of that project saved as I progress) so that I can constantly flick back and forth between them. It's much easier to find the courage to hit that delete key when you know you can recover those deletions later if you need to.
 

Fi Webster

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You wrote a sentence or phrase or paragraph of "stand alone" literary excellence. It was so good you just couldn't help but to build narrative or dialog around it, expand upon it, follow it where it led you in your novel. But don't look now. The objective critiques you receive question the importance or effectiveness of its presence, or how it doesn't advance or even detracts from your story. Now what? You're faced (like I am) with the daunting and defeating monster of the delete key. How do you garner the courage to touch it? How do you loosen your grip on those singular treasures of your creativity and move forward?

We just had a different thread about killing your darlings. Don't delete. Cut, paste, save in a file. Recycle later. It's all good.

I have a related thing with my visual art. I tend to overvalue artworks I created when I was in a tip-top mood, even if aesthetically speaking, they're not as good as others I created in a bad mood. Only with time does the shine wear off to the point where I can assess their true worth.
 

Maryn

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That kind of speaks to the way I do later drafts. When I finish a novel, I have to put it away, no peeking, for at least a couple months, up to four. I can write myself notes, things to check, change, delete, reorder, reconsider, but no opening the document. (I start working on something else.)

And when I finally do open it, I can read it as if someone else wrote it--and see far more clearly what's not right with it.

Maryn, whose ways don't work for everyone
 

mccardey

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Myself, I write those sentences down with a special pen in molten silver, in hand-tooled unicorn-leather notebooks that I keep under my pillow (lumpy and uncomfortable, but that's how I like it). The thing is - we may love our sentences, but there's no guarantee they're doing the job that we need. They're sentences, and we're writing books.

And we're writing books for readers.

Be a chef. Break eggs, make cake.

If you stand out of the way, and don't gatekeep too much, I promise you that you will write many many more sentences of breathtaking perfection, and you'll learn to see them as tools and not artifacts. You'll be able to use them, or lose them, or use them and lose them in edits. Using a perfect sentence as inspiration is a really, really common technique: but those sentences don't tend to last because the book, and the knowledge and power of the writer, will see that the words need changing. And Life will go on.

Not every sentence needs a book, and not every reader will agree on what makes a book (or a sentence) perfect.
 
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Helix

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Take Quiller-Couch's advice:

‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – wholeheartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.’
 

Janine R

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I just went looking for Unimportant’s kitten story that Tiger1b found so charming and walked into a room full of dead unicorns.
 

Gotham Scriber

We are all just flickers in time
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The only thing that can rival the excellence of your literary creation is its astounding mediocrity compared to the one you'll come up with to replace it. The courage you seek lies in knowing you can always do better.

Copy files. Cut self-doubt.
 
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littleniece

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We just had a different thread about killing your darlings. Don't delete. Cut, paste, save in a file. Recycle later. It's all good.

I have a related thing with my visual art. I tend to overvalue artworks I created when I was in a tip-top mood, even if aesthetically speaking, they're not as good as others I created in a bad mood. Only with time does the shine wear off to the point where I can assess their true worth.
I missed the "Killing Your Darlings" thread. Apologies.
 

Honzo

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Unicorns wander into my backyard and die. What am I supposed to do? Making a few hand-tooled notebooks from the hides helps offset the trouble and expense of burying the bodies.
 

Chris P

Likes metaphors mixed, not stirred
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A corollary to the "kill your darlings" and "cut/paste" into a different document is (for me) to accept the fact that I might have built the wrong story around that darling. I stitched together a toga for my emperor when it was a black-tie affair, and left him with no clothes at all. That takes some humility for me as a writer to admit, and remove the odd-fitting component for the benefit of what I'm confident will be a kick-butt scene.