To my writers in emergencies:
DO NOT PANIC.
DO NOT THROW YOUR WORK IN A FIRE.
DO NOT PRESS DELETE.
DO NOT THROW YOUR ZIP DRIVE OUT A WINDOW.
Take a breath.
Take a moment.
Remember, this too shall pass.
Take a few minutes to reflect on what’s happened.
Is your plot lousy? Maybe.
Are your characters flat? Perhaps.
Do you have a concrete setting? Maybe, maybe not.
Whatever the answers to the above questions, it does not warrant throwing your hard work out the window, into an ocean abyss, or creating charcoal.
Whatever is wrong with the story it can be fixed.
Repeat it with me: I can fix the problems.
Once more, like you mean it!
I’ve had three calls from writers who are in emergencies over the last month. Do not let your fears overcome you!
We write in drafts – the first is the get-it-down draft, or as Anne Lamott called the horrors, Shitty First Drafts.
Every writer before you, and I’m including Shakespeare, Homer, and all your favorites, had the same problem – they had to work through drafts to get to a piece that in the end didn’t make them want to throw it in the fire.
Every. Single. One.
As a writer who turned four manuscripts into charcoal in my 20s, I attest to this fact.
I remember four separate occasions and four separate fires. At the time, each draft, in my young-writer mind, was worth the blaze.
But now, looking back, I wish I could snatch them out of the fire!
Please don’t do it.
I wish I had those drafts – not because they were good, but because they were little nuggets of coal that could be turned into books if I had the right tools.
I don’t care how awful it is – whatever is wrong with your story, you can grow and fix it! Stand up! Fight! These are your words and your creations.
Please do not throw your work away.
Bitte zerstöre nicht deine Arbeit – du hast gearbeitet und Blut, Schweiß und Tränen vergossen. Werfen Sie Ihre Mühe nicht weg!
Please don’t destroy your work – you have toiled and spilled blood, sweat and tears. Don’t throw your effort away!
Instead, reflect on what’s bad, make a list, and prepare for another battle in the long war! As writers, we fight campaigns and use new weapons when we get them in our arsenals. So writer up and take a break if you need one.