As I mentioned in a post a few days ago, I have some hobbies other than writing. One of those is knitting. I’m not very good at it, so far all of my projects have been hats and scarves. In fact, if you know me at some point, you might get a hat or a scarf from me. If you do, just smile and pretend you’ll wear it, then stuff it in your closet when you get home.
Since there are only so many scarves and hats to knit, over Christmas I decided to take a huge leap and start on a shrug (for those who don't know, it's a short sweater). For several weeks now, I've been working on it, and was about half-way finished. If you're an astute reader--and I assume you are because you're here after all--you'll notice the operative word, was. It was half-way finished. All these weeks I've been merrily knitting along, happy that I could create something more than a scarf or hat. Alas, for some days now, I've noticed that the shrug looked a little small. Okay, it was very small. As in, it might fit my six-year-old, but there was no way it was fitting me. Sigh.
For several days, I postponed the inevitable. I stopped knitting. I stretched the yarn, hoping to pick up a few inches (didn't work). I thought about starting something else. But in the end, I knew I had to make it work. So this weekend, I ripped out all of the stitches and started over. In knitting, that's called frogging it.
So why am I telling you about this? Because sometimes in writing, you've just gotta frog it. I know it hurts. I know the last thing you want to do is scrap months or even years of work. But sometimes that's the only way to fix your work.
I've had to do this several times. The most painful was a few years ago with a novel I was working on. I loved the story. Loved the characters, but it was flat. Boring. The story I was writing had been told several times, by already published authors. So I frogged it. I gutted the novel. Completely changed one of the main characters. Changed the story line. Even changed the names of two major characters. I threw out years of work. That's right. Years of work.
You know what? The story is better for it, and it's almost finished. Finally. Frogging it is tough. It's hard to look at your work and say, "This is not my best work. But it can be, if I start over." But, it pays off. I'll be finished with that frogged novel this spring. In the summer, I'll start sending it out to agents. It might be good enough for them. It might not. But at least I will know that I've done everything I can to make it my best work.
From reading short story submissions for Echo Ink, I can tell you that most writers don't do that. A lot of people send out stories that need to be frogged. Step back from your work and take a good hard look at it. I know it's painful, but if your story doesn't make you sing, if it feels like you could push it to the next level, to make something really special. You might need to frog it. It will hurt, but you'll be better for it. I promise.