Muddy Writing

This week, we’ve been talking about killing your darlings. You writers know what this term refers to, right? Basically it means that you shouldn’t treat your own writing as precious. Sometimes your best phrases or paragraphs, or even scenes, just don’t serve the work, no matter how much you love them. No matter how brilliant you think they are. If they don’t fit, they must go.

Earlier this week, I found my old sketchbooks from around the time I was in art school and afterward, when art was what I did full time. This background helped me in many ways as a writer, but in particular with this idea of writing Darlings.

As an oil painter, you learn very early on that you can overwork a painting. In the art world, when you add too much of this color or fuss too much that part of the painting, you get mud. That’s the term that’s used because, quite exactly, when you mix enough paint together, no matter what the colors are there, you eventually get this brownish, swampish looking color.

What I strived for when I painted was to have a light, but sure hand. You can revise in painting but the integrity of the thing is delicate. Revise too much and you look like you don’t know what you’re doing. Revise too much and your intent can suffer.

This is the exact opposite of what happens in writing. Writing is revising. And revising is about getting the mud out of your writing.

As writers we have endless canvases--A blank canvas is just a click away. Take advantage of that. Don’t protect your Darlings. (Save them in another file, yes, but don’t be afraid that you’ll lose them forever. You won’t. I promise.) Be daring. Take risks. If you muddy something up, take a step back. Open a new file. Revise. Keep what you like. Write material you’ll love even more.

Your masterpiece is just waiting for you.


Speaking of revising, I've wondered... what was the difference in pages for UtNS and TtEN with your first draft you wrote for each and for the final versions? Beth Revis has an amazing vlog on how revisions go through so many processes that the final version looks or could read completely different. Was there anything major that changed through the course of writing UtNS from first to final drafts?

Thanks for sharing!

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