On writing: a lot of effort and time goes into material that eventually gets cut, and for good cause. Some stuff, no matter how precious or well-written, doesn’t work.
The only way to make the text stronger and take it where it needs to be — hopefully somewhere that agrees with you — is to go through the motions, which are simple: write as if everything were set in stone (confidence); rewrite with double the intensity (double down on your perspective while also engaging in the revision process); and cut whatever doesn’t feel right, to give the manuscript shape, meaning, and life force.
Writing and rewriting are tricky, but cutting is trickier. What to use, what to take out? What if I take out something useful? I spent so much time on segment such and such! etc.
There’s a trick to dealing with the doubts and pain, and it’s time. Give the cut time. Trust the feedback and your instincts, and remember that the pain of cutting subsides over time, giving way to the immeasurable pleasure of seeing a story emerge from the remains of the previous draft.
Plus, the process is progressive. Writing is like moving forward, with no previous draft better than the next. Moving in circles doesn’t help. If something is necessary, it will shout out, and you can reinsert it, probably after a rewrite. Forcing old squares into new holes won’t do. Everything needs reshaping.
So cut, dear friends, kill your darlings. Keep working on the main part of the text until it starts working for you in turn.
And never throw stuff away. Save everything. What didn’t work on one occasion doesn’t mean it won’t work somewhere else, in a different set and setting. Discarded text often serves as the stepping stone and inspiration for something entirely new.
The Preface below was something I’d worked on for weeks (some time ago) …
Part 2 to follow