Lessons On Letting Go

When I first sat down to write this post, I had two things on my mind: (1) a recent breakup with a guy I feel isn’t quite emotionally mature enough to be in a relationship, and (2) perfectionism in writing.  Then I thought about it and decided to steer clear of the relationship stuff, heh.

So yes, I’ve learned how to let go of situations that just aren’t meant/ready to be, but over time I’ve also realized that I’m slowly learning how to let go of words.

Learning When To Stop

Agonizing over every word you put onto the page just isn’t good for your mental health, lol.  It’s taxing and ultimately pointless.  Now, I still think it’s important to carefully think about what you say before you say it–or rather before you put it down on the page–but when you’re writing those words can always be changed.

…And changed, and changed, and changed… (Seeing a pattern here?)

Though, at some point, however, you have to stop, right?

But for me, personally, until recently I didn’t think I’d written enough words to understand when would be a good point to stop because I hadn’t really had enough practice at writing (or fully understand my story).  But some five-and-a-half years later… I feel like I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can think about a scene, write it, detach myself from it briefly then come back to it and make a clear judgment call as to what still needs to be fixed, why, and how.

A long while ago I spent a lot of time just reading through my whole initial manuscript and making notes on what I wanted to change.  Many of those notes ended up helping me to systematically comb through the manuscript and make quick changes…but then there were also a lot of times where I felt it was better to toss the notes to the wind and just wing a complete rewrite of certain sections or scenes.

…which led to me realize that I have a particular preferred method of writing.

Intuitive Writing

I feel like I’m an intuitive writer–which, perhaps, is similar to being a “pantser” but involves more.  You see, I don’t want to think out every little detail before I start because that feels really tedious.  Instead, I actually enjoy discovering certain things by writing them out.  Granted, some aspects of storytelling truly can benefit from a plan or at least some forethought (worldbuilding, plot, characters) to provide a good foundation to start with, but even these elements can continue to grow and/or change as you start actually writing the story.  Also, I find that if I think about something too much or try to force something to work…it usually doesn’t.  Sometimes I just have to let go of my understanding of a scene, take a break, then come back to it without a detailed agenda and just write what feels natural to me.

If I keep my “plan” basic and allow myself room to “play,” then I tend to get results I’m more satisfied with later.

The Bottom Line?

I feel like I’m more or less at the point where I want to let go of the 200K+/- words that comprise Element 7–not because I’m sick of looking at them (though at times I am) but because I can finally find satisfaction in them.  Granted, there are certain areas I’ve edited that still need a bit more work, though I’d say about 90-ish% of what I’ve edited is at the point where I want it to be, as far as plot and character development go.

This is good because that means that after Thanksgiving I won’t have nearly as much work to do on the manuscript as I did going into this first major edit.  Instead, I can focus on silly grammatical and homonym errors, sentence flow and whatnot.

As for now, I’m at 94% with heavy edits.  Only 15 days until Turkey Day!

In Other News…

I have additionally been working on a plan to get my own interior design business up and running–yet another goal for the New Year.  Had to do a lot of research to figure out how much it’s gonna cost me and all the steps I’d have to take as far as paperwork and whatnot go, but it’s all starting to coalesce from a vague OMGTHISISCRAZY idea into something I could actually do.

Scary, but honestly at this point I feel like I don’t have much else of a choice, career-wise… The job market for young, hardly experienced college grads in my field just doesn’t seem to be budging any time soon!

What lessons have you recently learned about writing?

Any particular insights that have come to you about writing in general, or perhaps your own personal process?  If so, I’d love to hear about it!


13 thoughts on “Lessons On Letting Go

  1. It’s computers that made endless rewriting so attractive. When we were doing this on typwriters, when rewriting meant retyping an entire manuscript, then there was more incentive to decide that something was done. 🙂

    Seriously, I’m the same way about notes. If I get too “this scene has to do a, b, and c” then the scene loses its life — it becomes like a flow chart. Sometimes scenes don’t do what we think they should, but that’s the characters doing what they would actually do, and that’s the most important thing. I agree, you have to leave room to play (for you to play and for your characters to play).

    And yes, sometimes you have to decide that something is done. That’s why I decided that my first two novels were done as of my 50th birthday. Done is done, and you take what you learned and move on.

    My recent insight, which I realize every November, is that one reason I admire the NaNo-ers is that I can’t imagine writing a novel from beginning to end like that. And then revising it, all the way through, all those words? Not for me. I write a section, I rewrite it, I revise it, I polish it, I post it, and then I move on to the next section. That seems like the sensible way to me.

    I do realize I’m in the minority.

    (Good luck with the business, by the way, and I’m sorry to hear about the breakup — which you were not entirely successful at steering clear of talking about. 🙂 And, yes, sometimes you do have to let go. I have a fair amount of experience with not letting go, and that doesn’t work so well.)


    • Yeah, computers…lol. There was a certain appeal to writing in a notebook before I started getting serious about finishing this novel, heh. I don’t think I was nearly as worried about “getting the words right” as I was once I jumped onto the computer.

      Ah, but I love being able to move things around too much. XD

      I do like the idea of focusing on small sections individually and writing, revising, polishing then moving on. I think, if you already have a really clear understanding of your story before you begin that could work really well. Unfortunately, I did not, lol. But with your mystery stories I can see why that would be a preferred way to work.

      And yeah…I guess I wasn’t entirely successful at avoiding the breakup, heh. Though, it was inspiration, of sorts, so I felt compelled to mention it. 😀


  2. I feel I’ve gotten a pretty good feel for when a story is “done” (at least at shorter, novelette lengths; we’ll see about novels). Then again… I’m usually quite in love with everything I write for at least 6 months after I write it. (I can detach myself and be critical, but I’m still in love with it.) Getting reader feedback has been critical in allowing me to improve. Once I’ve polished a manuscript with hep from two or three or four readers’ feedback, I find I’m even more in love with the result. And so I’m perfectly happy, at that point, declaring it done.


    • Hmm… Maybe I should have started with shorter stories, eh? 😉

      In other news, I am very much looking forward to the whole beta reader process, as I’ve done very little of this. So it’ll be really interesting to get people’s take on my story and writing…

      It’s good to hear that getting feedback instills more confidence in your writing. In the past I guess I was afraid it would do the opposite, lol.


      • Well, it can work against you, too, if you don’t have thick skin. Or… that’s a silly metaphor, really… what you need is an ability to step back and detach yourself from your work and look at it objectively. Anyway, if you’re not careful, criticism can sting at first. Negative reader reactions still always hurt a little. But if you get a good critical analysis from a reader (something that helps you understand what the reader was thinking and helps you see your work in a new light) it can spark new ideas to improve the story and make it better. And that definitely creates a new sense of confidence.


      • I think the best thing you can do in the beta reading process is to make it clear at the beginning what you want out of it. I have a friend who’s been a professional writer since 1972, and when he wrote a novel recently he knew in advance the number of drafts he would write and exactly what he wanted to accomplish with each one. When I beta read for him, he was able to tell me exactly what kind of feedback he wanted (and didn’t want). That was a huge help to me in helping him.


  3. Best of luck with the business! That sounds both scary and exciting!

    I’ve heard this advice before: When you’re at the point where you’re just rearranging words rather than changing the story, stop. Typos and language would indicate the very last editing pass.

    In general? I discovered I HATE OUTLINES. I tried it for this second novel and its sucked the joy out of the writing process – I used up all the thrills making the outline! For the next one, I may go with a looser structure… just outline key points along the way and leave room for discovery. On the other hand, writing with an outline is waaay faster, and I’ll have less rewriting and editing to do. Ahh pros and cons to everything.


  4. I approach every story differently, but I’m pretty loose with all of them when it comes to structure beforehand. I had to learn to ease off and let the story develop on its own. At worst all it means is plenty of story to edit when its finished. At best it’s a pleasant surprise to see all the things that ended up in the story that I had no clue from the beginning. Usually I take a break and then come back in a couple of weeks or a month when I’m not sure if the editing is finished. These days my rewriting and editing flows pretty well and I know when the story is finished. Or do I? The thing about electronic publishing is that the author can always pull a George Lucas and tinker with one’s work even after it’s been published. So does it ever end? Who knows…


      • It is a temptation (hey, all of my stuff is online, and easily revised). You do need to resist, IMHO, and I’ve not touched my first two novels since they were “done.”

        Learn and move on, that’s the way to go.

        Not only would you end up rewriting the same few stories for the rest of your life, but you wouldn’t be improving them. George Lucas has been saying that he wants to start making smaller and more personal movies for several decades now, and he’s never done it. I wonder if he sold the Star Wars property just so he could let it alone and move on.


  5. I’m just like you….by nature, an intuitive writer. The problem with that is, if you’re writing a HUGE complex story with subplots, we get absolutely lost. I use an outline to get a basic framework out, and I probably adhere to 50% of it. So I still get to deviate and do my thang. But later, I go back and change my outline to fit what I’ve written just for my own sake. Need to keep track of stuff! Maybe I should try Scrivener.


    • I hear a lot of good things about that program!

      Keeping track of stuff after you’ve changed it gets to be a headache, lol. I’d say most of it is in my head, for convenience’s sake, though I’ve got some basic info sittin’ around in my old journals and other documents. So yeah, you can imagine how I can’t wait to get around to writing my synopsis… o_O (I’ll probably just have to go back and write a one to two-sentence summary for each scene then file & smooth things down from there.)


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