Inflexibility: A writer’s worst enemy


I’m just recently supporting someone through their first full novel draft, and as usual reading through various forums. On of the biggest problems I see for people is their inability to change. Of course this doesn’t present as someone saying “heck I’m just being too inflexible about this” it presents as issues like:

  • I’m stuck on how to get my story to work towards X, it’s gotta work towards X though
  • I love character Y I just can’t work out how to make them fit in the story
  • I’m not editing this again!

Hopefully this doesn’t come across too sanctimonious its taken me several years to realize just how willing you have to be to tweak, adjust and outright rewrite your work to make it more readable.

We’ve all heard ‘kill your darlings’ but I think people tend to fob this off as meaning there might be one or two favoured lines that need to be axed, or that ‘my darlings are much better than everyone else’s’. Realistically the saying should be genocide, or mass murder your darlings – because readers don’t care how much an author likes there own work.

It’s not just about attachment though, there are various reasons that it can be easy to get stuck on writing points. You’re probably familiar with the so-called ‘Pixar’ story tips. (full list here)


Point 12 confused me for the longest time, like what how can there be several other possible story points, what about the truth? It seems like there is some sort of anchoring bias in our heads, when we imagine our characters taking one path we tend to stick to think that path is the way to go, with no other merit than it’ the first thing that popped into our heads!

I could probably go (rigidly) on and on, but I think one of the biggest mountains to traverse for a writer to be successful is accepting change. That the first draft isn’t CANON (I mean Tolkien’s first version of Strider was a hobbit with prosthetic feet, aren’t we glad for Aragon?)


What do you do to overcome attachment to darlings?

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