Sometimes when you’re writing you have something to say and you just NEED to write it. I think if any of you are writers you’ll know what I mean, that feeling that if you don’t write something down and soon it’s just gonna go round and round in your head, preventing you from concentrating on anything else. We’ve all been there (myself worryingly regularly). And writing it down is all well and good, great in fact if it gives you that initial rush of excitement that comes from writing something you love. But is you loving it really enough?
My computer is full of documents which are just a few pages long, the starts of things I know I will never finish. A sci-fi story about a woman rescued by an earth spaceship who turns out to be a warrior from a long dead planet. A story about an army brat turned assassin The start of a fantasy novel about a woman who needs to sacrifice her lover to prevent apocalypse All fantastic ideas right? Yeah, no, even I do think so. Hence why I haven’t wasted any energy on them since I got over that initial rush. I don’t want to get rid of them, they all obviously meant something to me when I started them, but I know better then to continue writing them. If you want to be successful you have to know when to give up an idea.
But then there’s the question of where to stop with the good ideas. This isn’t just a fiction problem, in fact it’s often more obvious in poetry. Ever read a poem where the first stanza blows you away and you fall instantly in love with it? Then you realise there’s another stanza and it’s so disappointing because it ruins the whole effect? That happens in fiction too. The unnecessary epilogue, the wrapping up and showing you everybody is happy, the twist right at the end just after you had that satisfied all done feeling. Sometimes writers just don’t know when to stop. They keep going. Ramming it in that it’s over. Making sure a point is clear. repeating something just to make sure you picked up on it. Over and over again. On and on. Never shutting up. See? Annoying.
OK so that was an extreme example, but we’ve all seen it right? I think it’s one of the hardest things as a writer, to decide when it’s over. Or when to cut something you love but that serves no purpose. Sometimes it’s a single line that while you think it’s hilarious you realise is not only entirely pointless but isn’t funny to everybody else. Or it could be a whole chapter that gives a bit of background into a character but breaks the pace and really only explains what the audience has already seen. Imagine you’re watching a movie – Transformers 3, just to pull on totally randomly out of a hat, I swear – and there’s a huge battle going on and it’s all exciting then suddenly it cuts to the bad guy giving and inspirational talk that’s actually a joke about the actors most famous role. Ignore the below video link, it’s not related to that example at all I promise.
I wrote the other week about how I cut the original ending to the novel I’m currently working on. I didn’t want to – it had a joke about bad coffee, described the main characters outfit which said a lot about her character and showed the sassy bickering characteristic of them. But it was unnecessary and you saw all those personality traits clearly enough in the rest of the text (at least, what I’ve written so far) clearly enough to deem it a total waste of my time and the readers. Assuming their ever are any readers of course. And that’s really the difficulty, you can write all you want, as much as you want, as crappily as you want and eventually you will write something good, great even. But you need to know which bits are worth keeping and/or showing to the public, and it’s that talent that can make or break a writer.
Of course, and I appreciate I am now waffling on and possibly breaking my own rules, there is the danger to go the other way. When you’re reading a book and it’s build to the climax so brilliantly then suddenly it’s over. My first draft of the end of my novel is currently like that. It literally goes: mystery, mystery, mystery, she knows where she’s going, she’s found him, she’s arguing with the bad guy, hey look the SWAT team are here oh he’s saved, touching convo about the future. The big confrontation is terrible. Needs a lot of work. And this is also something you see in books that really disappoints me. Bit like this.