#128: How Much Should You Care About Your Story?

Writing books takes time. A lot of it. It’s impossible to work so hard without becoming deeply invested in the stories we write. Our characters grow from mere ideas to fully-developed imaginary friends. By the end of the draft, they become part of our lives. Our memories of them are often indistinguishable from the memories of our friends and family. Life is busy, and we might even be spending more time with them than with our real friends.

Care too little and it will show. Readers can tell when you cut corners and merely string together set-piece scenes – a betrayal here, car chase there, couple extra explosions along the way. Like a film made out of a stock footage library. Passion is vital.

But caring too much can be equally dangerous. Become too attached to your story and you will probably never finish it. Nothing you write will ever be good enough for the mirage of perfection you have in mind. You’ll get stuck and keep rewriting things over and over again. You’ll cling to nonsensical details and refuse to admit that the whole premise of the story may be flawed in the first place. Your darlings will suffocate you.

Healthy detachment is just as important as passion. You’ve poured your heart and soul into the story; spent weeks, months, even years writing it. It can be devastating to see the rejections coming in (and there will be many).

Your ability to let go is crucial so that you can write the next story and the one after that. That’s how you hone your craft and write even better stories. In a way, the best thing you can do for your story is not to get too attached to it. And maybe one day many years from now, you will finally be able to do it justice.


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