A WRITTEN WORD IS NEVER WASTED – TUESDAY WRITING TIP

Welcome to 2011. I’m feeling very optimistic about the forthcoming year and I hope that yours is full of happiness, fun and writerly successes.

For me, a new year is all about opportunities. It’s a chance to start afresh with new resolutions, goals and achievements.

But that doesn’t mean that you have to disregard everything from the past. Over ten years ago I submitted a script to Blue Heelers, a tv police drama. They received hundreds of submissions every week and I got down to the last twelve. I didn’t get the gig, but I did have a fabulous day on the set of Blue Heelers learning how it all worked – how the actors practised their lines – how the show was produced. That in itself was a valuable experience.

Recently, my Blue Heeler’s submission was put to good use in another way. I am currently preparing a submission to a publisher for an MG series. I love my characters and the whole concept behind the series and of course I hope that a publisher will too. After reading Aleesah Darlison’s tips on this blog on how to plan and pitch a series I realised there was a lot more involved than just writing book one and coming up with ideas for other books to go with it.

I had to put together a proper proposal to convince a publisher that my series was worth taking a risk on. But I wondered what sort of information to include in my submission. That’s where my Blue Heelers experience came in handy. After I had been to see the show being filmed, they supplied me with a series bible so that I could submit a follow up script. The Blue Heeler’s series bible showed me exactly what sort of information I needed to know about my characters and setting, and how to present it. So even though I never had a script accepted for Blue Heelers, the experience and the words I wrote for my submission were far from wasted.

In the last few days I’ve had to make the difficult decision to delete huge sections of my YA novel because even though the words are well written, they don’t really fit with the story – are not consistent with my main character’s voice.

These words might never see the light of day again, but what’s good about them is that they helped me get into the story – helped me understand and get to know my character better. In short, they were probably really backstory and shouldn’t have been in the manuscript in the first place.

So even though I liked those words and they took time to write, I don’t believe they were wasted.

Whatever you tackle this year, look at it as an opportunity to hone your craft, to make your writing better, to make your work irresistible to publishers and readers:)

You may be surprised at how the words you write this year might be of help to your future writing career.

So these are my tips:

  1. Never look on words as wasted. Whatever you write is an opportunity to learn and hone your craft.
  2. Don’t be afraid to cut ‘beautiful words’ from your manuscript if they don’t fit with your story. These words probably helped you get to know your character and story better…and who knows, they might turn up in another manuscript.
  3. Be willing to use knowledge and words from the past to help you with current opportunities.

I’d love to hear your stories about situations where words you have written in the past haven’t been wasted even if they weren’t published.

Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing and may words bring you happiness in 2010

Dee:)

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20 thoughts on “A WRITTEN WORD IS NEVER WASTED – TUESDAY WRITING TIP

  1. Hi Dee
    I really enjoyed your blog today. Your Blue Heelers experience had me going ‘wow’. You did so well to get as far as you did and was a valuable experience. I also understand the pang of pain at the thought of cutting nice writing. I’m not very good at that but your blog is a great reminder of how to pop it away for perhaps something else. I have started writing a blog about my commitment to get fit, for the first time ever. Not only am I exercising daily, but I am practising writing every day too. And little stories present themselves when I walk or exercise that form part of my blog. Again, thanks for your great tips.

  2. Hi Dee
    One of the writers who read my story for me told me my story, although it was full of adventure and exciting scenes, lacked a sense of urgency. When I read it again I realised that I had done what you just said – I used the first book as an opportunity to reveal the background to the ‘real’ story. Even though much of it needs to be told, it doesn’t need to take so much of the book to tell it. I have cut many favourite scenes, one of characters and one my creatures (at this point – the creature is calling me to be put back in) and pulled an early nail-biting – will they make it in time – scene from the start of book two. Now my dilemma is how to pull the story together to fit the new scene and put back the necessary information from the cut scenes. It is keeping me awake nights at the moment. Today I will have the house to myself (hubby back to work) so might be able to read it through uninterrupted and sort it out. Good luck with yours.

  3. Thanks, Kaye,

    Glad you found this post useful. Your new blog sounds great. I’ll have to check it out. I must admit that I find that walking and exercising is great for getting the creative juices flowing. Good luck with your ventures.

    Dee:)

  4. Hi Elaine,

    Sounds like you definitely have a dilemma. When something like that happens to me I find that going back and replotting can help me get things straight in my head. Have you tried using system cards to write a summary of your scenes on and then you can change the order of events in the plot around when things don’t fit where they should?I would even do scene summaries for the cut scenes. Look at the scenes you are having trouble with and see if you can summarise the essence of the scene in 25 words or less. This will help you work out what the purpose of the scene is in your story and help you identify what should be there and what shouldn’t.

    Good luck with it.

    Dee:)

  5. Hi Dee,
    I’m guilty of hoarding deleted pieces,but I’m getting better at letting go and I’ve actually learned to be quite good at cutting. I wonder if it’s because I am learning to have faith that I’ll come up with something good again. This is not easy and I often tell myself when I’m writing that it’s total rubbish.

    I do sometimes use a deleted story thread in another book. In one of the Ranger in Dangers I wrote what I thought was a really exciting scene underwater. The only problem is that it didn’t fit into the story line no matter how hard I tried to shoe horn it in and I really, really tried.
    But the sequence was perfect for number six, which is set in Pacific Islands so lots of diving opportunities and shipwrecks. So in it went although I had to change it slightly to suit different villain and also needed to write quite a bit more. But I did use it.

    I agree with you. Words are never wasted in one way or another.
    Happy 2011 to you!
    Alison

  6. Hi Dee,
    Thanks for this. Your blog really struck a chord with me this time (I am usually just a lurker, so thanks also for all the other posts you’ve done!).
    When I first decided to write for kids ten years ago, I sat down and wrote a 22,000 word story about, of all things, a magical raibow trout. It had fatal flaws in pretty much all areas – characterisation, plotting, tension, genre, market, I could go on. But innocently I sent it off to a publisher and crossed my fingers.
    The story was rejected, of course, but the publisher was at the time starting up a new series and was on the lookout for writers. Even though my story had so many flaws it became my foot in the door and I was invited to submit for the series – which I did, and this time was accepted.
    So – even though my first story was unpublishable, it certainly wasn’t a waste of time.
    On top of that, I kept working on the original story, and I’m glad to say that it will be published in April as part of a collection of short stories called Head Spinners.
    The story is now 8,500 words – over 60% of my original words have been dropped, more if you count the rewritten ones. But when I think about how much I’ve learnt over the past ten years, and through the reworking process bringing this story up to speed, then I can’t agree with you more – a written word is never wasted.
    Very wise words, Dee!

    Thanks again,
    Thalia

  7. Thanks Alison,

    That’s a good point you make. I think we need to have faith in ourselves that we will come up with something better. My best writing seesm to come when I work really hard at it.

    So glad you got to use your exciting underwater scene – a perfect example of words not being wasted:)

    Happy New Year to you too:)

    Dee

  8. Thanks for sharing your story, Thalia.

    I know that the Go Girl books you have written are very popular. For me, that’s the thing about writing (apart from the fact that I love doing it)…there’s so much learning on the job and even if something doesn’t get published it can still open doors for you.

    Congratulations on your short story. Fantastic news. I know from experience that persistence is such an important thing for a writer. And I’ve been in a position where I’ve had to totally reinvent a story I love to make it fit with what a particular publishers wants – and it has worked out to be a better piece of writing because of the changes I have made.

    I hope you’ll tell us where/when Head Spinners becomes available so that we can read your story.

    Dee:)

  9. Great post Dee. Shows how important it is to really know our character and what we are trying to achieve. Often too those words will come in useful down the track when we have grown more as a writer. I have had poems and stories published from manuscripts started years before. When I go back much later, I can see why they didn’t work first off. Other times those words have slotted into something else. Anything that keeps us writing is never wasted.

  10. Enjoyed this post, Dee. And totally agree – words are never wasted even if you end up taking many of them out.

    I used to get frustrated at how easy it is to write a whole lot of gobbly-gook and not realise it for many months of what I thought was ‘wasted effort’. But now after 12 years of writing seriously, I know when I do this it’s the ‘writer’s copy’ of the story, not the ‘reader’s copy’.

    It gives me the freedom to use this ‘writer’s copy’ as the means to get into the guts of what the story is really about, to understand the characters more, to explore the setting’s landscape.

    But I get the impatience bug sometimes. I slip up and submit the ‘writer’s copy’ of a story before it’s really ready. Of course, it gets rejected and it’s back to re-writing for me.

    I’m learning not to do this (and occasionally a good writing friend reminds me NOT to be impatient! – thanks, Dee!)

  11. Thanks, Dale,

    I know exactly what you mean about going back to old manuscripts and realising why they never got published – but often the ideas are great and some of the writing is good too and so they develop a new life and get published in a different form from what you originally intended. It is so important to keep writing, isn’t it?

    Dee:)

  12. Thanks, Sheryl,

    I like that idea of the ‘writer’s copy’ and the ‘reader’s copy’ and it’s so true. And I totally agree with you that it can be frustrating to think that your work is ready for publication then find out that it’s not.

    As you know, the impatience bug bites me at times too LOL.

    Happy writing:)

    Dee

  13. Thanks Dee for writing this post.
    I was particularly interested in what you had to say about book series and I’ll be pursuing Aleesah’s post on the same.
    I agree words are never wasted but are part of our maturing process as a writer.
    Cheers,
    Karen :))

  14. Hi Dee
    Thanks for all of those suggestions. I had revised the plot and written a new sequence of scenes and their main outcome goals. It seems to be fitting together okay at the moment. I will work on it for the rest of today then take a break and go back to it with a fresh outlook next week. I have some editing to do for a client by Monday, so that will take my mind off it and allow a little distance. I hope your edit is going well.

  15. Thanks for the wonderful post, Dee. Your words are something I need to hear right now, as I am psyching myself up to delve into revisions of a first draft after a considerable break (during which I was working on other projects).

    In response to your request for examples of words never being wasted, I wrote a short story as an exercise for a writing course I attended several years ago. It was an adaptation of a popular fairy tale – something I thought I would never get the chance to “use” . However, just recently I heard that a company was after just that sort of story, so I dug up my piece, and revised and submitted it. The good news is that now that story will become an iPad application Picture Book in a literacy program for children in developing nations! Not only has this been an opportunity to donate my story to a worthy cause, but potentially hundreds of children will benefit by switching on to the joys of reading…and I am being introduced to a medium that is entirely foreign to me.

    Happy 2011 to you and your readers!

    Julie.

  16. Hi Dee
    It is hard to let go of words, and sometimes, when they’re well written, it’s harder for we writers to recognise that they need to go and why.
    My WIP is 137000 words and though a lot of the backstory is essential to the story, it doesn’t all have to appear in the final draft. I now know that thousands of early words were me writing my way into the story and getting to know my characters. I can tell where the real action/story begins, so have lots of cutting to do. The scary bit will be working out how to weave in seamlessly the bits that really need to stay without all the extraneous parts. Lots of work, but exciting too. And words are never wasted, some of those scenes may yet translate into short stories, or spark a whole new story idea. Very best of luck with your series, and thanks for sharing. 🙂 Chris

  17. Thanks, Elaine.

    Congratulations! It sounds like you are making great progress. Having a small break sometimes works for me too.

    Good luck with your edits too. I look forward to hearing how you go:)

    Dee

  18. Thanks, Julie.

    Congratulations on your iPad application Picture Book. That’s great news. Sounds like a fantastic opportunity and those words were definitely not wasted:)

    Glad you found the post useful and thanks for your kind new year wishes. I hope that 2011 is a happy and successful year for your too.

    Dee:)

  19. Thanks for sharing your experience, Chris.

    Sounds like you have a lot of work ahead of you but at least you know where you are going – that can be the hardest part, sometimes:)

    Hope those ‘cut scenes’ lead to more inspiring stories and good luck with your WIP.

    Dee:)

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