Knowing When To Delete

I have been a member of the Canadian Authors Association – Toronto Branch since spring. We meet once a month at the Deer Park Library. So far, I have had the opportunity of hearing three guest speakers. I am usually unfamiliar with our guests, but I am impressed with them by the time the meeting is over. They are ordinary people who, like myself, are pursuing their dreams and working hard for their success.

This month’s speaker was Elizabeth Abbott. She was interesting, entertaining, and possessed the kind of sarcastic sense of humour that always draws me in. She writes non-fiction history and spoke about the writing process of such a work. She told us about how she does her research, how she organizes it in colour-coded notes, binders, and boxes, and how she writes.

The one thing that I thought was a wonderful piece of advice was the following: if you love a piece of writing you have done, delete it. Her reason was simple. We have all written something we love. We love it because it makes us feel clever, or artistic, or brilliant, or whatever. The problem is it probably doesn’t fit.

How right she is. I remember writing the beginnings of a novel. One whole lengthy chapter was solely about two minor characters; it was a short story about them. I convinced myself that it belonged when I knew it did not. I ended up shredding that novel, but the characters still live inside my head. If I ever chose to start writing that story again, the short story won’t be part of it.

Patricia Sands (author of The Bridge Club), Elizabeth Abbott and me

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