This is based on a Stephen King article I talked about in “Everything You Need to Know.”
King states that to be a successful writer, if something is “bad, kill it.” He goes on to say, “When it comes to people, mercy killing is against the law. When it comes to fiction, it is the law.”
As first I thought this was a pretty simple statement. Any writer worth his or her keyboard, knows the editing process is all about getting rid of the bad stuff. We go through cutting out words, sentences, paragraphs, or even entire pages. I can look at something in the editing process and say “man, o’man, what was I thinking!” then I highlight the passage and hit the delete key. Easy stuff!
I started to think about why something so seemingly simple would be on King’s list. After a while, I realized “bad” didn’t just mean grammatically incorrect sentences or awkward phrases. It meant anything “bad” for the story. A passage of your absolute best writing, might be just that: good writing. If the passage doesn’t do anything to further the story or teach the reader something about a character or the situation, it needs to go no matter how superb the writing may be. These cuts are the hardest for a writer to make.
Here’s the trick: You don’t have to throw those bits completely away! Granted, those little fuzzy-writing babies can’t stay in the current story so you have to cut them out, not throw them out. I have a folder on my computer called “Writing Junk Drawer” where I put all the random tidbits I write or cut out of other stories. Start yourself a similar file. Once you cut a piece of writing you love dearly from your story to make that story better, take your little orphaned piece of writing and dump it into your version of a junk drawer. I visit my junk drawer occasionally when I feel a little writers block starting to build up. Those snippets can come in very handy as sources of new stories where they fit much better than they did in the original story. Change out the character name and details as necessary. Boom! New story starter.