notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Leaving It Behind

I’m in the editing process for my new novel.

My narrator, like myself (what a coincidence), digresses quite a bit as she tells her story. One story reminds her of another story, which reminds her of another story. But all these little side trips advance the plot or reveal her character or someone else’s.

But sometimes the narrator digresses a little too far. I had nothing to do with this of course – it is all her fault. But my editor has pointed out that a few of these side trips don’t really advance the storyline. They have to go.

Oh, that makes me so sad. I know there are some authors who doubt every word they write. They worry that their writing is garbage. That’s not me. I love all the words I create. Every sentence is my baby.

One particular non-essential side-trip needed to be cut entirely. It was obvious that the whole thing had to go because lifting it out didn’t make one bit of difference to the story. So okay – out you go.

But here’s the sad part. This little anecdote was really cute.

I know, I know… since I’m in love with my own writing, I realize it may not actually be as wonderful as I think it is. But it’s like when you know your child is a genius even though he’s almost nine and still pronounces it ‘pasghetti.’ He’s your kid. He’s endearing, not weird.

I could save those few paragraphs. Maybe use them someday in some other story. Maybe I could make a blog out of that anecdote. That would be a stretch though, since it totally fictitious. Perhaps I can use it as an allegory.

Ah, wait. That’s what I’m doing now.

Because sometimes something you love just isn’t working for you anymore.

It might be a job or a relationship. It may be as simple as a favorite pair of jeans that are falling apart. Or as complex as a friendship that suddenly feels painful.

But whatever it is, you love it. You don’t really want to stop loving it.

Years ago, I left a job that that had turned very unpleasant. A job I had devoted myself to for fifteen years. I loved that job. But the last year or two had been awful. When I left, I felt terrible for a long time. I hated that job and what it had become. But eventually – thankfully -I saw it differently. I saw it as a great job. It was a shame that it wasn’t a good fit at the end, but that’s all it was – a good job that didn’t last forever.

Like my discarded anecdote, I think you have to say goodbye to good things that are no longer quite so good.

Love what it used to be. Love what it used to mean to you.

So what did I do with the unnecessary but cute anecdote?

I didn’t save it for another day.

I hit ‘delete.’

My novel is fine. I am fine.

I’m glad I wrote it. I’m glad I let it go.

13 Comments

  1. I’ve edited out a few very close friends. Some relationships aren’t forever. Not all are. They are wonderful but someone grows in a different way. I treasure the memories but have no interest in going back. They are swirling in cyberspace with your anecdote!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with you. I’ve dropped chapters because they were not relevant to moving the story forward. Yet they were fun to write and I enjoyed them! I keep some in a folder under the name of the book …. just in case.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve had to do that too. But if I can, I save it to use as a bonus for my fans, a little background story that they’ll enjoy. So I hope yours isn’t gone forever. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • What a good idea! I might have the passage in an earlier version… I’m going to check that out.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ray G

    Reminds me of several novels I have read (some of them “classics”) which should have had an editor like the one you have now.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. HelenG

    Whether you left it in or deleted it you probably made the right decision. What’s important is that you wrote it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I completely understand. I was trying to rework a novel I wrote several years ago because I knew it had a problem, but I thought it was one thing and it turned out that essentially I had 9 chapters of character back story that did not have any bearing on the actual plot. So, I have come to terms with this as you have with your anecdote. Now that I have, once I get my other project settled out, I intend to dive in and straighten that fantasy out and … Amazon here I come! Congratulations on finishing another novel! I think it’s wonderful!

    Like

  7. Reading this was a trip down memory lane, with smiles. My rule of thumb is now “if in doubt cut it out.” And oh I have grown to love deleting!

    Like

  8. I have a folder on my computer labelled “Lost and Abandoned Snippets”, where I keep those much-loved but unnecessary ‘side stories’ that need to be removed; I don’t have the heart to delete them permanently!

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  9. Your post reminds me of an organization I volunteer for, and the leadership of that organization that quit in February. They (there were two that quit at the same time leaving us pretty much in a mess) had great jobs, but at the end they were no longer a good fit. We are struggling with the loss, but it is time to let it go.

    As for your bit of writing…I’d never be able to delete totally. I’d save all those bits and put them into some sort of volume called “Bits and pieces of unrelated stuff” or something.

    On the other hand…I have thousands of bad photos I’ve taken that I can’s seem to delete….I give you credit…you are a stronger woman than me.

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  10. Attributed to several different writers, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings,” or variations thereof. Writing is as much editing and cutting as it is writing, as painful as that may be.

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  11. The need to “edit” out something that isn’t necessary and does nothing to benefit the story can apply to a lot of things. Someone above actually applied it to friends. For me it is stuff. Stuff I have loved. Stuff that is meaningful to me but has no real purpose in my life anymore. I am for ever moving around said stuff to get it out of the way or to dust/clean it. What I need to do is edit it out of my life and my home. Every day I look at things and ask myself, “What can I get rid of?” Some days I even do it.

    Like

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