When we fall in love with our prose sometimes we don't think about why the sentence, paragraph or scene is actually there. And that can really fuck up what would otherwise be a good piece of writing.
Before I worked on shows and before I taught writing classes, I took a bunch of writing classes. I learned a lot. And from the many classes I took I can boil something down for you so you don't have to take the same amount of classes. Put your work to an Intention Test and see what stays and let go of what some of us might refer to as "the fat."
For the Intention Test, ask yourself these five questions:
-What is my intention for this Scene/Page/Chapter?
-Why is this Scene/Page/Chapter here? What is the point of it?
-Does this Scene/Page/Chapter move the story forward?
-Does this Scene/Page/Chapter offer any new information/characters?
-If this Scene/Page/Chapter wasn't here, would anyone miss it (other than me?)
I think this could be helpful and help pry your addiction to Sentimentality away from its grasp. We get sentimental about our writing. We fall in love with our lines. As many writers complain about writing, often, I think secretly many of us kinda fall in love with our writing. I can't tell you the amount of times I've heard a writer say, But I really liked this. There are so many things I really liked too. But streamlining, getting to the point, etc., makes pieces flow and readers love you for it. There is no excuse for dense, bogged down writing that has no real point and gives the reader the excuse to walk away.
Don't let them go! You do have power over your reader and you do have power over your weaker inclinations! The solution is to use The Intention Test, grow a pair and make some fans!
Mindless activities, doncha just love em? I putter mainly in my kitchen. But really, the whole house is game when I'm in that frame of mind. And the reason I'm not going to list the many many ways one can putter is because it's so BORING POINTLESS AND USELESS! Which is actually the definition of puttering.
Here's why I am writing about puttering on a blog dedicated to writing: it's because I recently “diagnosed” a fellow writer as being a putterer in his writing process. Puttering easily can be done while toiling away on your script or novel. This guy desperately wants to be done with his book so he can show it to an editor for feedback but he just keeps going over little chapters, moments and areas because a few months ago he came up with a newly realized emotional thru-line. He just wants to make sure all the tracks are laid down nicely.
a few months ago…
Classic Putterer. His precious writing sessions are stagnating because while he's ensuring this one thing is covered in each and every nook and cranny, he’s getting lost. He’s doing word counts, changing buts to howevers, wrestling with where to put new and exciting commas. He’s wasting precious time!
I'm not judging him. I do it with scripts. I'm like "Oh wait a minute, so and so is gonna have to say this thing and have this attitude in that old scene so this new scene makes sense." CUT TO: An hour later. Yeah, I addressed that, I also wrote a bunch of new material (most of which won't stay) and I looked at the jeans on sale at Madewell, put items in my cart and then didn't buy anything (a whole other level of puttering).
Art is war, remember? And to get past enemy lines and reap the spoils of the war you have to strategically move forward, neutralize the bad men and get a bunch of accolades, saving lives along the way (including your own).
But what about that niggling thing that happens when you do have a great new emotional thru-line that was only realized while you were halfway through your piece? That feeling of "I just have to make sure it’ll make sense! Let me do that, for the love of God!"
HERE IS THE SECRET TO FIGHTING THE PUTTER NUDGE:
Create a document called "MUST MAKE SURE." Your "Must Make Sure" Document reminds you of all the things you must make sure are in your work before you present it to anyone. That way nothing falls through the cracks and you have no excuse but to keep moving forward. When you're done with your current draft, you'll do a pass for each item listed in your "Must Make Sure" document, spot checking that the thing that has to be there, is.
It's not easy. Because of course a part of you will fight this every time a new idea emerges. You'll think I just have to do this one thing. Honey, that's putter talk and you’re above that. Now.
Of course you might be the rare putterer who has found puttering is a part of your process. In fact you do get a lot of shit done despite of or even because of your puttering... Okay. That's fair. But if you're like me, puttering serves little to no purpose and you don't need another unfinished piece of writing in your drawer to prove it.
Like Boston says,
The sun is shinin'
The clouds are breakin'
Cause I can't lose now, there's no game to play
And if you can't trust Boston, who can you trust? They finished songs and they even wrote a song about it. They were like the first anti-putterers.
Writer, Writing Coach, Writer Supporter.