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July 16, 2010

The Delete Key is Not Your Friend

I've recently started meeting with a couple other writers to go over our work and talk about writing.  During our last get together, one of them mentioned she's been seduced by the delete key.  Her hour of writing at times come down to a single paragraph able to survive the cut.

"Remember how you used to do that when you were working on Quin's story," my husband said, and the long days of little progress came back to me.  I'd honestly forgotten the constant cycle of typing and deleting.  I wonder now how much of what I instantly deleted might have been useful when I started to work on revisions.

The rough draft of my first novel was handwritten.  Deletion wasn't an option, but scribbling was plentiful and often therapeutic.  A few angry scratches of the pen can release alot of frustration.  

Some pages would be covered with false-starts, nearly identical paragraphs began and abandoned over and over until one finally took off.  But even the most scribbled-up page was moving forward, and I could often find something worth keeping amidst the mess.  The photo on the left shows a typical page in the draft, full of crossed out words and a star marking the portion I'd salvage.   

Although I'm now composing my work mostly on the computer, I'm treating it more like writing in pen.  Nothing gets deleted.  I think of the draft like a mine, full of valuable ore and inevitable waste.  A passage that doesn't work for the current story, might work in another.  I lose nothing by keeping it in the rough draft, and I'm not constantly interupting my momentum.

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