Thursday, April 3, 2008

First Law of Delete

A great point brought up in one of my classes was the question of where to go next with a story. In writing, this question plagues everyone. No story is ever so complete that it can't use work, not even the million-copy bestseller. Every word we write, there's the question of which words to place next, which direction to take.

For this class, and in all your writing, I encourage you to remember the First Law of Delete - anything written can be deleted. If you don't like it, you can get rid of it later. If it's awkward, ugly, smelly, disgusting, or simply too horrifically beautiful, the delete key's always ready, always hungry.

I say this because often, as writers, we get caught up trying to make a piece "perfect." This line of thought actually hurts the creative process, especially during the rough-draft - this is one of the main causes of writer's block. For the assignments, feel free to read the prompt and then start writing. Write for fifteen minutes. If the words feel wrong, keep writing. Keep pushing forward. Oftentimes, it takes a few minutes (or even a few hours) to get in the groove - all those words that sound wrong are simply stepping stones to the right path, the slow curve of the on-ramp before you merge with the interstate.

Later, after the fifteen minutes (or twenty or thirty, if it's a good day), you can apply that First Law of Delete. And some days you will - there will be days when that whole fifteen minutes just doesn't work. But no worries. There will be other days when that awkward smelly no-good first paragraph becomes the keystone for a new plot you never saw coming. Embrace that plot. Enjoy it. And remember this irony: knowing you can delete everything helps you the stories you never forget.

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