They say that when you’re revising a novel, and you can’t get a chapter to flow properly, that you should try cutting your favourite scene. You know the one. The one you wrote first. The one that inspired the chapter, the character, or even the whole book. The one you think is so perfect, so emotional, so driving. Yeah. That one. Cut it out, and suddenly your book makes so much more sense.
And by they I mean Joss Whedon. He’s the one who said that. And he’s the most brilliant storyteller I’ve ever encountered. So you should take him seriously.
We hold onto things because they’re familiar. We love them. We put work into them, and have fond memories of them. But eventually they start standing in our way. They hinder our progress. The novel has gone on and changed, as novels do, and we’re still trying to keep our white elephant.
Change is good. We think something is wonderful, and perfect, and exactly how we want it and we never want it to change. But if things really are perfect it means we have no higher goal to strive for, and that’s never true. Perfection doesn’t exist. We have to keep changing, reaching, and improving. We have to keep trying to reach that distant, impossible star.
Look at the seasons. When spring comes we’re all like “Oooh, green leaves. Pretty. And flowers. Gorgeous. Spring is my favourite season!” and then Fall comes and its the same thing all over again. Striking colours. Tumbling leaves. Crisp autumn breezes. Breathtaking sunsets. And we never want it to end. But then winter comes, with icicles and snow white fields, and brown forests transformed into a winter wonderland that takes our breath away.
Who can say which season is the best? They all are. To say “I never want this to change” is to deprive yourself of the wonder and magic of the other seasons. Change is good.
Change is painful. Cutting out that favourite scene? It’s like cutting out your heart. But if you don’t do it, you’ll never improve. Sometimes when change comes you don’t know what will happen. It might end in disaster. It might backfire, or explode. Changes in seasons have their downsides too. They come with storms and rain and mud and frozen pipes and tornadoes.
And when metal goes through the fire to be tempered, that hurts too.
Is there such a thing as bad change? Oh, sure. But until you try it you don’t know if it’s good or bad. But it is worth the risk. It is ALWAYS worth the risk. And which would you rather be? A risk-taker or a scaredy-cat?
You have to reach out, embrace the change, leap for the stars, fight the impossible, and cut your favourite scene.
Because if you don’t you’ll never win the prize. You’ll never publish your novel. And you’ll never see how gorgeous winter can be.