Our writing can sometimes hold deep personal significances, making it difficult to detach from ideas we secretly recognise as bad. These ideas drag momentum to the ground, add nothing of value or significance to the plot, and yet they're hard to part with.
This is something I personally have struggled with throughout my journey as a writer, and I've developed some ways of thinking that have really helped me to see the benefit of letting some ideas go, to ultimately improve the quality of my writing…
# 1 Save for Later
One amazing reassurance: you don't actually have to get rid of the idea at all!
Maybe the idea doesn't quite work with this particular piece of writing but isn't in itself a terrible idea. So, use it for something else in the future! You're a writer; you'll write other things!
A good idea is to make a journal to note down all the ideas you've scrapped. Then, next time you're out of ideas, give your journal a skim through.
Or vice versa: use all the ideas in your journal to inspire a completely new story altogether.
A journal is also a great way to remind yourself that these ideas aren't being deleted but salvaged, that they're simply on the production line and not in the trash!
# 2 Fragment Your Ideas
Sometimes, it's about reworking your ideas, not scrapping them.
Perhaps it's just that your writing is just too verbose and long –– that all the required information is there but you've not given it the right pizzaz; it's exhausting to read.
Rather than scrap the idea entirely, why not break it down into more manageable fragments? Spread your ideas out across the narrative and add more intrigue and mystery to your writing, gradually revealing information over the course of the story.
# 3 Don't Be Precious
This is the most important lesson I have for myself as well as for you.
We writers are quite proud of our work, and we spend a lot of time reminding ourselves of the value of the creative industry and of our importance within it. So, acknowledging bad writing can be depressing, a shock to the ego…
Remind yourself that bad ideas don't make a bad writer. Just because the idea, and maybe your articulation of it, was bad, doesn't mean you are as a writer. Change that mindset!
Failure to acknowledge/accept how to improve is the prevention of your own development as an artist. It is essential to regard your material from a certain critical distance, to ask yourself if your writing is sufficiently articulate and expressive.
# 4 Scrapping Ideas is Fun!
Once you get into the habit of scrapping ideas, it's actually quite enjoyable –– and addictive.
After you've adopted that critical distance from #3, you won't be cringing at your work anymore; you'll be viewing it as a piece of art for the public that needs to be perfected and true to your vision.
Rewriting something means you get to reimagine your story, to tell it all over again in a fresh, more interesting way. Enjoy working through hundreds of ways to articulate your ideas.
Start to have pride in the process, rather than guilt, knowing that you're improving your work!
# 5 Consider Your Readership
Maybe you're the kind of person who needs some fear to rev them up a bit and get them going… In that case, consider how your reader would feel, painstakingly trudging through your bad writing. With everything that's out there, your reader would simply request a refund and turn to something else in minutes!
Start by thinking logically about who your readers actually are. Consider their age, competence and status. Is your writing too long to keep their attention? Is it full of vague or esoteric references and examples that they wouldn't understand? And, most importantly, how much does it matter to you what your readers think? Are these family members and friends, or reviewers or critics?
(I should add here that using family members and friends for feedback is a great way to identify "bad" ideas vs if you're just being too hard on yourself.)
Ultimately, though, you don't want your readers to be bored or confused or to feel cheated of their time.
Use the fear of what your readers might think to spur you on to the scrapping stage –– but just don't let that inner saboteur be too harsh on you! All you need to do is make sure that everything has intended effect you intend it to; the rest is up to the reader…and that shouldn't be a scary thing. After all, opinions are opinions, and the only fact is that you're a great writer! So, keep it up!
…But just have a little think about scrapping those bad ideas… What do you say?
Hopefully, this publication has convinced you to edit out those painfully bad ideas.
Comment below with your own techniques for deleting your precious writing babies, or with an example of a related experience you've had!