The way I see it, a Pages (or Word if you’re so inclined) document in a file on my desktop is no good to me. I’m writing to be published; my goal is to get books into readers’ hands. If I get feedback that says something’s got to change, I change it. Always*.
Let’s deal with that asterisk first:-
*Unless it’s something I feel is absolutely integral to the entire heart of the story, and that changing it would be akin to trampling all over my very soul. But that has only happened to me once, when an editor suggested I turn a sentimental story into a funny one. It was a story about the emotional turmoil of a family changing and growing; I’d written it while pregnant with my second child and I couldn’t bare the thought of taking a sledgehammer to something so deeply personal. That said, now a little time has passed, I might revisit it…
Here’s the thing: even if you’re really proud of the wordsmithery, the story, the characters… rewriting it doesn’t take any of that away. You can save your previous versions as different files. I have folders with versions anything from v1 to v28. If I really want to lick my wounds and read back through them, I can. Nothing is lost. It wasn’t a waste of time; it was part of the journey. And it’s all good practice. (Forgive me if I spelled practice wrong; that word is my Spelling Nemesis).
Chucking stuff out from previous drafts and trying things a different way frees up the possibility of something amazing happening. Stories become stronger when you explore unexpected paths. Ideas grow bigger when other people have an input. Your word count isn’t shrinking because it’s cumulative.
The more time you spend writing – and especially rewriting – the more you learn which things are keepers and which you can happily consign to the archives. Don’t be afraid, my precious.