The Courage to Throw It All Out – And to Start Again

Have you ever had one of those days, weeks, or months when nothing you write seems to work?  Have you ever been stuck on one sentence, one paragraph, or one or more chapters that go nowhere?  Maybe your agent or editor has called your attention to uneven passages in your manuscript and asked you to rewrite–again.

It’s a bit like painting yourself into the corner of a room.  You plan how and where you will start, and where each stroke of the brush must fall on the floor.  Yet somehow, when you look up, you find yourself standing on a tiny strip of bare floor, several giant steps away from the door.

Some days you write yourself into that corner.  And try as you might, there’s no way out of your dilemma unless you’re willing to sacrifice what you’ve completed.


It takes courage to throw away the parts of your manuscript that don’t work, and to begin again. 


But in your heart you know your work will benefit if you eliminate the character that plays no role in the resolution of the major conflict.  The narrative will flow if you cut the passage that so intimately and deeply describes the location of the story.  Or if you slash the action scene you feel is essential, your story will better reflect the values of your main character.

And it hurts to come to that conclusion.  To realize you’ve spent so much time and care with your writing, and that you love the way the words look on your page.  But that they don’t belong in this story.

So you apply your editing scalpel, wincing in pain, as you ruthlessly carve away the dross to reveal your golden, shining plot.  Once again you see the beauty and symmetry of your story and how each character moves through it.  Only then can you begin rebuilding your manuscript.

You can save your book, if you have the courage to throw out what doesn’t work.  You can move out of those writing corners and reveal your masterpiece.  It’s painful now, while you rewrite.  But, oh, how free you feel when the words begin to flow again until you reach “The End.”

Have you been in this situation, and thrown away a part or all of your manuscript?  Leave a comment and share how you felt as you re-discovered the joy of your story.

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