Daily Archives: December 7, 2010

Delete Keys–a writer’s best friend

Over the past few months–since AQC started its new site–I’ve noticed an influx of new writers.  It is fun to see all the fresh ideas and ride the high of their excitement.  However, that excitement only lasts so long.

After a few swipes at their queries, they become frustrated by the sheer volume of rewrites that it takes to create the “perfect” query.  Even those who can provide amazing feedback to others will make the same rookie mistakes in their own letters (don’t we all?).

In the wake of watching others follow the query journey, I’ve been able to pinpoint (totally unscientifically, of course) three kinds of writers–nay, three editing styles.

  1. The practice of ignoring all commentary in a rewrite.  These writers will kindly thank others for their time and repost a query almost identical to the one they initially posted–without heeding any of the significant feedback that had been provided.  Writers of this editing style typically don’t stay long on AQ, and I often wonder how long they stick to writing in general.
  2. The practice of taking absolutely every comment and squishing them all into a revised query.  Writers who do this kindly thank others for their time and repost a query chock full of every last feedback tidbit within a span of five minutes.  The result is a query that has lost all individuality.  These dedicated souls will remain on AQ, diligently reposting query after query, month after month.  Some eventually move on to the third editing style.
  3. The practice of hitting delete and starting from scratch.  These writers kindly thank others for their time and seemingly go on hiatus for a week or two.  Suddenly, they reappear with a sparkling new query–one that goes in a completely different direction and has hints of feedback weaved nicely between the lines.  Even if these revisions need revised, they always come back substantially different–at least until all but the minor nitpicks are left.

I’ve found myself doing each of these things over the years, depending on the  project, my mood, the feedback or the alignment of the stars.  The point is, editing is an art, just like writing.  Yet as writers, we don’t always understand the sheer energy and focus that a good edit requires–or the mindset that goes into it.

Oh yeah, those and a willingness to hit the delete key.

Over the past year and a half on AQ, I’ve unofficially noticed that the majority of writers who stick around and eventually nab an agent are the ones who can kindly thank others for their feedback and walk away–only to emerge a week or two later with something new and fresh. 

The practice of deleting has made them stronger, more resilient writers.  They are not afraid to consider a new perspective.  They are confident enough in themselves to apply feedback artfully, not just as a whiplash reaction.  And they certainly realize that changing more than a word or two is what editing is all about.

Delete keys can be your friend.  In fact, they can be your best friend if you’re not afraid to use them.  Kill your darlings.  Forge a new path into your MC’s world.

Go ahead.  I dare ya!

What kind of editing style do you practice?  How do you incorporate the delete key into your writing life?  Are you so afraid of losing a beloved passage that you carry them around in your manuscript like a Sherpa toting water?

And in case this post makes you feel edgy, uncomfortable and a bit unworthy, know that I’ve been nursing a manuscript for VERY long time.  While the feedback has only been my own, I’ve been tentative at best about getting into the meat of my edit.  Not until yesterday’s Story Tree did I actually remember my long lost friend, Delete Key.

Trust me when I say it makes a difference.