I’m not a hoarder but I keep things. I keep things because I think I may need them or because I don’t want to be wasteful or because someone gave it to me and I feel guilty parting with it.

teavanaHome Clutter

Like the cool container that held my Teavana mug (see pic at right). Hey, it’s so pretty! And sleek! And it was only used to transport the mug from the store to my house–what a waste. Argh.

All of the spatulas even though we have five or more because maybe we’ll need all of them at once (Uh, no)?

Or the sweater I’ve never worn or the stacks of books and  magazines I plan to get to…

I could go on, but you get the idea. It’s a little nutty.

Writing Clutter

I also keep scenes I don’t need (maybe I will later), characters who aren’t doing anything (maybe I can make them do something), and bits of snappy dialogue that are just that–snappy with no real substance.

So what’s a clutter-bug to do?

Make Room for Better Stuff

I hear a lot about “releasing the things that no longer serve you.” I love this because it is a call to awareness. to know what no longer serves me, I have to pay attention. I have to hold something up, look at it, think about it, and make a decision.

And like my physical space, my books can become cluttered with things that no longer serve the story. How do I figure out what’ s what?

  1. Really knowing what my story is truly about. If I know what it’s about, I can begin to see what doesn’t belong.
  2. Get rid of scenes that no longer serve. In my current w-i-p, I took out an entire scene. It had what I thought was a really cool punchline, but its purpose was repetitive–I already had a scene that was providing the same information but had the added benefit of actually moving the story forward. I’m betting I’ll come across more cluttering scenes as I go.
  3. Get rid of characters that no longer serve. My main character had a sister, mostly because I didn’t want her to be an only child which felt like a cop out. But I didn’t want the sister around because my main character needed to be somewhat isolated so I had the sister studying abroad. But she really didn’t have a purpose and it didn’t make sense to create one so she’s now out.
  4. Get rid of stellar phrases, bits of dialogue etc that no longer serve. This is a hard one for me. I love my cool dialogue. A gorgeous turn of phrase. But it has to be done if it’s not serving the story. Sometimes the turn of phrase or dialogue shows character or the relationship between two characters, but other times it’s just fluff. Fun to write—which is awesome and not wasted–but then it must go.

And Then…

Add new scenes, cool dialogue and gorgeous turns of phrase that further the story. Now that I’ve gotten rid of what isn’t working, I have room for what does. I’m free to fill my story with wonderful writing that makes it even better. Woop!

I owe it to readers to make sure my book is clean, tight, and the best story I can possibly tell so…declutter!

What do you struggle to let go of—in life and writing?

P.S. The sweater is in the giveaway bag right now. Still have the Teavana box and the 5+ spatulas. Baby steps.