Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring Cleaning for Writers

If you live in the northern hemisphere, signs of spring are beginning to bud. I've got tulips popping up in my garden and weeds (curse them) are starting their usual attacks. Inside I've noticed it's time (probably past time) to clear out some of the clutter and rearrange what's on the shelves.

Writing projects can get dusty too.

Take some time and bring out all those unfinished projects and take a cold hard look at them. Figure out why they're unfinished; there's always a reason. It could be you got bored; was it with the plot or with the characters? It's absolutely possible to write a boring plot; trust me, I know. Try to remember why you started writing the project in the first place, that knowledge could be enough to relight that writing flame.

A project can sit neglected in a drawer because it simply got lost in the mix. If you have had more than one manuscript going at a time, it's very easy for one to get put into last place. Get out the poor thing and take a look; it might take very little work to get it done. On the other hand, there's no shame in admitting the manuscript deserves its last place in the queue. Perhaps it should give up its place to something else.

The secret to any cleaning project is ruthlessness with your discards. When I look over my projects I try to look at them with an objective eye. I often discover that I've held onto projects which I'll never finish because I'm attached to the memories of the time I was working on it, not the project itself.

Doing a clean-out can reinvigorate you. That feeling of accomplishment will get you back to your pen or keyboard and you'll know you're actually moving ahead, not going around in circles.

16 comments:

  1. Elspeth - Such words of wisdom! It really is important to look back at one's writing projects I think. There could be some hidden gems in that dusty drawer. And the feeling of getting rid of projects you don't need or want any more can be liberating, i.e. "I've grown since then. I don't need this any more." It can spark creativity, too, to look back over one's own writing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You make a great point, Margot - not everything we've written is golden. I think it's a real sign of growth to be able to look back at old work and realize you've gone beyond them.

      Delete
  2. I find the 3 pile method works for me

    Ooo Yeah!

    Ah, maybe.

    What the hey...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How nice to hear from you! Have a great week.

      Delete
  3. Great advice. I often find that something left when relooked at suddenly comes alive and I can see where it must go. Distance is important.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're absolutely right, Lauri. Isn't it great when that happens?

      Delete
  4. I've had an unfinished manuscript in my metaphorical drawer since 2005. I occasionally take it out every so often, like a wistful photo album, and peruse its contents. Love the characters, love the setting, and have a couple of nifty little scenes, but can't for the life of me find a plot. Have even considered breaking it down into short stories. Still no plot. Or, perhaps more specifically, no point.

    Alas, I hope one day I find it.

    Happy spring to you! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have you ever shared it with someone else? Perhaps they might be able to give you the spark. I'm a pretty good spark-giver. Just sayin'.

      Delete
  5. Excellent advice. I'd much rather focus on an old manuscript than the guest room closet anyway :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL! I'd like to just have enough space for a guest room.

      Delete
  6. Oh what a good idea - I'll do just what I do when I clean anything. Stop and read it all, wonder where that map went to that had the address written on the corner - look for it and find another project - this one a play I started - put that down and try and find the bag of single leather gloves I collected to make a 'fits like a glove dress'. Lie down and read for a bit. Get up to make dinner. And so on...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your comment is another handful of reasons of why we are sisters under the skin.

      Delete
  7. "...attached to the memories of the time I was working on it, not the project itself."
    A-ha! So that's why I've got so many of them boxed in my study!

    One thing came to mind: what if one would combine parts from several old projects, which as themselves aren't going anywhere? Maybe there's an underlying theme in all/some of them? Hmm... Have to definitely look into that. While cleaning, that is :).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What an excellent idea, Christine! I should think about that too.

      Delete
  8. Wonderful advice. There's something so liberating about a good spring clean and we often forget all those old words gathering dust in drawers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Each time I clean out the clutter I can feel weight lifting off my shoulders.

      Delete

Please leave a comment as I love to hear from you!