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Ten Signs That You Should Scrap That Piece of Writing

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Every writer faces this proverbial fork in the road: You have pounded out what you hope will be the creation that will transform the literary landscape, but you smell something rotten and fear it may be your writing.

Sometimes this is merely the overactive inner critic; but most of the time this is the voice that will save your literary career. It’s a fine line, but one that must be examined.

Just remember, the great, sprawling masterpieces actually require more fine-tuning. The greatest writers are often virtuosic nitpickers and visionary verbal mechanics, always tinkering with and adjusting the written word.

It’s important to learn to recognize when something is not perfect as is; when it needs more editing; and even when it needs to be scrapped — as heartbreaking as that is.

Just remember, it’s possible that your piece is brilliant but misunderstood, but it’s also possible that it’s time to take out the garbage.

Here are some signs to help you determine when it's time to move on to new printed pastures:

1) If it needs explanation, apology, or perverse amounts of liquor to be enjoyed.

2) If you have an inexplicable itch to tell your editor that your cat ate it.

3) If you recall reading something almost exactly like it, but it’s not, like, plagiarism; and what the heck, people love nostalgia…right?

4) If you privately wish someone would hack into your computer and give it a little character.

5) If you use the phrase “that is to say” more than you actually say.

6) If it came to you in a dream, on acid, on a spiritual retreat, or on the toilet.

7) If you’d rather drive a needle through your eye than reread it.

8) If you think it could best be described as “Proustian.”

9) If your protagonist is a hooker with a heart of gold that is not played by Julia Roberts.

10) If you think it would be a pitch-perfect candidate for a verbal lobotomy.

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About Caroline Hagood

  • Dusty, on the contrary, it sounds great because it has a sense of humor–one of the main things missing from a lot of my worst work:)

  • Dusty Hixenbaugh

    Okay, okay. You’ve just convinced me that a collection titled Toilet Poems wouldn’t be a healthy start to a career in verse. That dream heads, you know, down the drain. Fun article!

  • Trust me, I can only write this list because I’m guilty of all of them…

  • I love this! Gave me a laugh and a bit of a wince. Nice