Here's Why You Need a Writing Graveyard: A Super Simple Tip that Will Save You So Much Angst

Yup: Revision happens to us all, and cutting words is never easy. But do this one simple thing to take the sting out of all that deleting. (Bonus: It's virtually effortless!!) |

Here's a writing scenario for you:

Brilliant lionhearted writer (either you or me) sits down at her computer. She pulls up the document of her (amazing! incredible!) drafted work. She settles in for a session of revision.

She finds a problematic passage that needs to go. It's too tangential to the plot, or it involves characters that she has totally rewritten. Or maybe it's this lovely lyrical description that matters a lot to her but maybe not so much to her readers.

It's a passage that--even if she wishes she could deny it--her gut is telling her to cut.

Maybe it's even one of those "darlings" that we writers are always told to kill.

At this point, the Emotions might show up. Maybe as a vague sense of dread, or that smothering impression of how HARD writing is. How thankless the revision process can sometimes feel. 

Or just a bit of defiance: "But I don't WANT to cut it."

Hands up--does this sound familiar? Anyone else ever feel like a bad writing-mother, chopping away at the paragraphs she labored over for so long? Anyone else have an attack of Emotions that then derail the writing day, or at least make it feel bruised and wearying?

I figured out a little trick to deal with this, and believe me, it helps. It doesn't take all the sting out of deleting words, but it goes a long way to soften the blow.

It's really easy. Super straightforward. And I'm betting a bunch of you already do this. But if not: give it a try. 

Here it is: I make a graveyard file. 

Whenever I create a document for a new project, I immediately make a twin file, a document that will hold every deleted chunk of that project. 

And then, whenever I'm revising and I come across a passage that needs to go, when I decide (for the fourth dang time!) that I need to rework the opening sequence, or when I have to cut that little phrase I used to describe the dog ... 

... whether it's a big chunk or just a little phrase, I cut it and paste it right into the graveyard file. 

Yes, I still feel that little twinge of "I wrote that, but it has to come out." Yes, I still feel that little flare of "darn it, I have to rewrite that opening sequence ... mutter mutter mutter."

But I don't feel the wild-eyed panic of tossing my beautiful little words out to the wolves. I don't have to think so hard about it, debating with myself, before cutting a chunk. 

If I suspect that I need to cut it, I do. Right away. If I change my mind later, I can search for it and pop it back into place. No harm done.

I have been so much less panicky about deleting things since I started doing this. And, bonus, I'm much quicker to chop things that really, really needed to go. 

And thanks to my little graveyard file keeping all my words for me, I'm a lot less emotional about hacking away those passages that don't work. After all, they're not really gone! I can go reread those words anytime I want.  

Anything that keeps me out of the path of a raging mood is a really good thing.

It makes for a better draft and a happier writer. Less wear and tear all around! What's not to love about that??

So if you're going to revise (and you are!), and if you're going to have to cut some of your lovely words (and you are!), do yourself a favor and give them a sweet burial. 

Whew. So much easier.