Mile 24: Delete Key

It is my experience that for many writers the “delete” key is either the most over- or under-utilized key on the keyboard.

Allow me to offer these words of advice. Don’t be so hard on yourself that you overuse the delete key, thinking nothing (or very little) that you write deserves to ever be read. At the same time, don’t fall into the trap (and if you do, you’ll find me waiting for you there!) of thinking everything you write is absolute genius and if John Steinbeck (or Louis L’Amour) were alive today, he’d be calling you for advice.

Somewhere in the middle, which means judicious use of the delete key and an honest assessment of your work, is the place to be. Granted, that is not always easy and can most certainly be quite difficult. Sometimes writing is pure joy and the words flow from our thoughts, through our fingers and onto the keyboard, as if by magic. Those days don’t happen as often as we’d like, and they are a gift when they do. Savor them!

But other days are work. I am reminded of the following quote, which has many variations and has been attributed to many authors, including Thomas Wolfe and Ernest Hemingway.

“Writing is easy. You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins and bleed.”

Regardless of the exact wording, or who first said it, this quote rings true for many, if not all, of us who have labored over the keyboard. Which means, once those words are finally on paper (or screen, depending on your appetite for technology), it can be quite painful to delete a word, sentence, passage, paragraph, page or an entire book. It took so much work to get them there, how can we possibly delete them?

And yet, sometimes, you have to. For the good of the project. And, if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll know when the right time is. Maybe not as you’re typing, but a day or two later, when you’re reading your work, you’ll know if a particular passage should stay or go. Trust your gut.

Now, when doing so, when you are ready to hit that key, there are two options.

First, a full delete. Whatever it is you thought, whatever you wrote, it is now lost to the ether. That’s how I do it. However, I have other writing friends who set up a file and save everything, on the chance they’ll come back to it and use it for the current project or maybe one down the road. Sadly, my OCD (or what I like to call hyper-efficiency) doesn’t allow me to do that.

Whichever way works for you, do it. Don’t be afraid to use the delete key. But, don’t overuse it, or use it in anger. Find the balance that works for you and your book.

I wish you good writing, and if you have a question or something you’d like to share, send me an email at [email protected].

Thank you, enjoy and keep writing!


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