“Sheila, put the knife down.”
These days I’m working on my second book. It’s been a long time coming; between entering the publishing world and editing An Ember in the Ashes, my current work-in-progress hasn’t gotten much love. The time I did spend on it was almost exclusively focused on outlining. So when I finally sat down to write, I was quite excited. On my first day, I hit about 1,200 words.
Then I cut all of them.
Day two: 800 words.
But these words weren’t good enough, either. They weren’t strong enough. They weren’t the right words. So I cut them too.
It’s been so long since I started a book—more than four years, that I’ve forgotten what it feels like in the first few weeks, when you’re slogging your way through a draft. I’ve forgotten that nothing sounds right at the beginning, and that giving into the resulting frustration only results in long, agonizing days of staring at the screen and thinking “I can’t do this.”
So I made a rule for myself. No matter what I write, no matter how crap I think it is, I’m not allowed to cut. I’m putting the knife down. I’m letting this story happen instead of trying to engineer it to perfection from Day 1.
And today, Day 3, was different. I pounded out 1,500 words, some of which I even like. Not a single word cut.
I’m sure that will change later. Maybe I’ll cut half of what I wrote. Maybe all of it. But right now, while I’m still discovering the story, those 1,500 words are a solid start. Those 1,500 words are enough to get me to the next 1,500, and the 1,500 after that. And again and again, until I find my stride. Until I find my story.
Note: The song that inspired this post is below–“Sheila put the knife down” by Junior Prom. It’s got nothing at all to do with writing. As far as I can tell, it’s about a dude trying to stop his crazy girlfriend from going all Norman Bates on him. But you know me. I can always find a way to connect music and writing. 🙂