Vision # 80


Cutting Before It's Done


Ashe Elton Parker

Copyright © 2015, Ashe Elton Parker, All Rights Reserved


I have something important to say:

It's okay to cut an incomplete project and rewrite.

Yes, I know the going wisdom is to complete the story first, then rewrite. I was told early on, via writers' magazines that if I felt I hadn't written the best story up to a certain point, that I should continue on writing from that point as though I had already made the changes I wanted to make in the draft up to the point where I felt dissatisfied.

And I tried that. More than once.

If I didn't get blocked on the project, I did manage to finish, but I never went back and revised them. So, yes, I've tried this method, as I'm sure many, many other writers have—and had the same results as I did.

I mentioned two results of continuing on that can strike a writer who feels dissatisfied with their project midway through: getting blocked, and not revising a completed manuscript.

When a writer is blocked, progress may be made, but it's not the kind of progress the story needs. Even if there's an outline, if the writer is unhappy with part of the work, that unhappiness will probably affect the scenes resulting from the remainder of the outline. This is not helpful. If this happens to me, I lose sight of the entire story after the point where I first felt displeasure with my writing, and, even with an outline, as I had with one of my projects I cut and rewrote while in-progress, I realized I was writing bloated, meandering scenes that did little or no work at all. They didn't move the plot forward satisfactorily; and the few where characterization was actually revealed were utter trash otherwise, the characterization buried under drivel.

The other reaction writers can have to a piece that isn't going right is to do as that ancient advice from the magazine said: write as though the changes have been made, then go back and revise. Now, I know a lot of writers can do this, but here are some here, like me, who can't for whatever reason. Maybe they lose interest in the project. Maybe, as it is with me, the thought of doing all that revision is daunting and they trunk the manuscript as a learning experience. However they feel, they're still left with a manuscript they won't ever revise because working on it no longer appeals to them.

As I said, I never revised projects I finished while dissatisfied. It was too much work. I do much better if I cut the bloated, meandering work and rework from the last best scene I wrote.

I know, I know, that's not how it's supposed to be done. But who gets to tell any writer how to write? If what's already written is awful and it's blocking a writer from completing the wip, to the point where that writer is avoiding their writing, why can't that writer try cutting back to the last best scene and rewriting from that point on?

This is, I assure you, a viable option. It works for me. I can't be the only writer it works for. There are far too many of us for me to be that unique among writers.

So, cut that manuscript back to the last best scene and try rewriting. Rework the outline if necessary—I have and will likely do so again. If you've been writing on a project and it's no longer going because you're disgusted with the way the scenes aren't working, trying this may help. Nothing is written in stone. Not the outline, and not the manuscript, and definitely not the rule that the manuscript must be completed before revision.