It’s been a while, but since I last posted about my own writing I’ve written loads (by my standards).
Firstly, I made a few pages’ progress on a folk horror novella that I really should have finished by now.
Then, in a flash of inspiration, a potential recurring character came to me and I wrote the first story featuring him (rewritten, edited and submitted to a magazine; fingers crossed).
Thirdly, I’ve almost finished the first draft of another story with the same character. The end of this latter story has taken several attempts. I normally don’t like scrapping entire pages and feel that if I’ve gone so far down a particular route then I’m committed. But I’m trying to be more flexible and let the story go where the characters take it: and if that means the destination is different from the one I anticipated earlier, so be it. This story took a weird turn when it jumped from 1990 to the early 19th century and back. I didn’t expect that, but it definitely adds depth.
While planning the end I jotted down a couple of paragraphs in my notebook as the ideas arose, meaning to slot them in later. But by the time I got to the point they were intended for, only one of the paragraphs still rang true. The other may have been a beautifully articulated insight into eternal human truths (or it may not), but it was as incongruous as a cuckoo at Christmas.
Stories grow as you write them – or they should, if they’re to have any life on the page for a reader to connect to. That means that your perfect, crystalline idea of how it should end might not actually be appropriate by the time you’ve come to write it. Writing isn’t LegoTM.
On the second attempt at finishing the story, the remaining paragraph also didn’t quite fit. The words I’d chosen may have been perfect for the paragraph standing alone but it was no longer right because of how the story had since developed. As paragraphs go I was fairly pleased with it, but outwith the story it was written for it had no purpose. It had to die.
This was a salutary little lesson, and another reminder of the need to kill your darlings. Don’t be precious about a piece of writing. They’re only words, and if they don’t serve the larger piece, leave them out.