Letting go of words, making room for story
Unlearning perfectionist writing habits
A recent blog post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch struck a chord with me. Writers fail by getting too hung up on the words, she explains. Writers who focus on words lose sense of the story, and the quality of their writing suffers because of it.
This resonated with me because it’s what I’m going through right now with my WIP. I have lost the flow of my story over and over again because I’ve been caught up in choosing the right words. I’ve got a project full of beautiful sentences and paragraphs, but the story doesn’t flow. I’m constantly having to go back and fix story issues, throwing away hundreds, if not thousands, of the words I spent hours carefully selecting.
If I want to finish this book anytime soon, something has to change. I have to change. I have to let go of my perfectionism.
From now on, I’m going to go easy on myself, reminding myself that this isn’t the final draft. It’s okay if my scenes are short and bare bones and the word choice is far from perfect. What matters is getting the story beats down, getting the hooks into place, getting to the end.
Once I’m at the end, once I’m satisfied with the story arc, that’s when I get to go back and polish to my heart’s content.
I’m reminded of something I read in a book of essays by Hayao Miyazaki, where he compares writing a scenario for animation to a tree:
One must have the clear core of what one wants to convey. This is the trunk of the story that penetrates throughout in a strong and simple way. What catches the audience’s eye is the treetop, the shimmer of the leaves. What is most required of a scenario are roots that spread deep into the earth and a strong trunk hidden by the mass of shimmering leaves.
-Hayao Miyazaki, Starting Point 1979-1996
The draft I’m writing now needs to be the trunk. When I go back to flesh it out, that will be the branches and leaves. Last of all, I get to add the decorations.