How much do you keep?

A couple of years ago at a holiday party, someone asked me “out of the 1,000 words you try to write every day, how much of that do you actually keep?”

My answer: it depends on how good it is. I probably throw away half to three-quarters of what I write (sometimes more). I also consider everything leading up to my first million words as expendable: chalk it up to a learning experience. When you’re learning how to be a writer, most of the stuff you produce in the beginning is going to be pretty bad. But that’s okay. The way I think about writing, none of those words are really wasted because even if you end up throwing it all away, you’re still 1,000 words closer than you were before—plus you have the added benefit of being able to recognize crap when you see it.

For example, today I had a particularly successful writing day. In rewriting a section of my novel, I managed to whittle down 19 pages into a single, well-crafted paragraph. Booyah!

Next challenge: haiku.

About E.S.O. Martin

E.S.O. Martin is a writer, a California native, and a graduate of SF State's Creative Writing MFA program.
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