Letting Go


About a month ago, I did something.

After working on my current WIP for a very long time, I decided to delete the whole thing. I took the entire Scrivener file, threw it in the trash can, and immediately clicked EMPTY TRASH! I wanted it off my computer. Gone.

This was not an easy thing to do, let me tell you!

The WIP wasn’t awful. It wasn’t. I had just gotten off to a not-quite-right start, but it took me a looong time to realize it. So I kept writing and writing, waiting for it all to magically “come together.” It didn’t. I was spinning, adding more and more, not really sure where anything was going or what it was all about anymore.


There’s something about working on a novel for a long time that makes it more difficult to let go. I held on and on, ignoring that inner knowledge that was telling me this wasn’t it. I guess I didn’t want all that time I spent on it to be for nothing.

But sometimes you have to let go.

Deleting that document allowed me to stop, to wipe the slate clean, and then start again. It gave me the chance to remember the original idea, which had gotten lost somewhere along the line. And I can’t tell you how happy I am that I made this decision!

So, if you’re in a similar position, writing something you’re not sure is going anywhere, try deleting the whole thing and starting again. It’s only words, right? Right??? And really, there’s nothing as inspiring as a fresh, clean document with a blinking cursor just waiting for you to start… again.




by | December 3, 2012 · 8:37 am

18 responses to “Letting Go

  1. martineleavitt

    I have done this my very self, Coe! That is what I call artistic courage.

    • It does take courage to let something go! And once it’s gone, there’s such a great sense of relief, right? It makes me wonder why it takes so long to work up the courage to get rid of something that’s not working!

  2. You are so brave! But it wasn’t for nothing. You’ll use the knowledge for the new draft. Wishing you the best with it!! ❤

  3. Nicole

    You *are* brave! I don’t think I could ever. But I can absolutely see how this could be the right step to take. Followed by a nice bin of chocolate.

  4. I didn’t trash it, but I did turn my back on my latest about 2-3 weeks ago. And you’re right, it’s liberating! I know for a fact I have a tendency to get too married to the direction I’m going. Even when it doesn’t feel right. But turning my back was the best thing I’ve ever done. The book has gone in a totally new and better direction. Changed the title and everything. Moral of the story: it’s only weird idiot doesn’t work. Wait, that’s actually a slogan for a beer ad. But it still applies.

    • That’s a good point, Paula. Sometimes you don’t need to actually delete a draft. Sometimes just taking a long break from it can help you see things differently.

      I’m glad to see turning your back on your WIP helped solve some of the problems you were having with it.

      Whatever works, right?

  5. Umm it’s only weird if it doesn’t work, was what I as trying to say. Auto correct is the devil.

  6. I once heard the wonderful Janet Fox refer to one of these kinds of novels as the “zombie novel.” The novel that “just wouldn’t die.” I had to let one go a few months ago with the realization that the novel was not meant to be a novel but perhaps a screenplay. I think I was forcing it for so long that I stopped seeing that the characters deserved a different medium.

    • Ha! I like that — the “zombie novel!”

      I think it’s interesting that what wasn’t working for you was your novel’s form. That’s something else to ask ourselves when we’re having trouble: Have I chosen the correct medium for this story?


  7. Way to go, Coe! You’re a hero.

  8. mima tipper

    Oh, so brave and inspiring. Our characters and stories deserve the best we have, even if that means letting them go. Thanks for sharing, Coe.

  9. Thank you for sharing, Coe. If I get into that situation, I’ll say to myself, “If my advisor can do it, so can I!”

  10. That does take courage and resolve. With your words in mind, I just pressed the delete button on two chapters.


  11. maryquattlebaum

    Whew, Coe, that’s tough! Exhilarating, too. How is your novel going now?

  12. Wow, how auspicious. I see that you posted this on my birthday! And after two years of trying to “fix” the last draft of my novel, I finally started over new this week. I’m still waiting to see if it feels good or not. Cheers!

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