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It's said that to be a good writer you ought to "Write what you feel and feel what you write." While this sounds logical, I sometimes find that being too attached to my work cramps my writing style and stymies my ability to think critically and analytically.

But at the same time, I cannot write about topics which don't inspire me. Writing about something which does not inspire me and excite me, makes writing sheer torture: A dull, drab and boring affair.

So where should I draw the line?

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    You know, Cervantes was so attached to his Don Quixote that he died shortly after completing the 2nd book (which ends with the death of Quixote). The book ends with Cervantes saying that he was dying along his favorite character. That's quite the attachment to one's own work.
    – Geeky Guy
    Oct 15 '20 at 21:58
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    It’s fine to be emotionally attached, I know I am. Sometimes I put my characters in a situation that at first seems cool, and the I realize there is literally no way out and they’re all about to die, so sometimes I actually have to stop writing because I feel as stressed as my characters.
    – Leila
    Oct 21 '20 at 19:13
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You can (must, really!) be passionate about what you write, which inevitably ends up with you being emotionally attached to and invested in it.

But you gotta be Abraham with Isaac. Love it, but willing to sacrifice it in the name of good story telling. Doesn't mean you care about it any less, you just have to be brave enough to be mean to it in SPITE of that fact.

I would argue that it is a learned skill as a writer to step back, examine your work critically, admit that something that will make you sad for your characters or plot will actually IMPROVE the story, and do it anyway.

Finally, this is why we have workshop groups and beta readers. Other people can look at our stories and see what we can't (since we are biased, not only are we attached to our work, but we have other "blind spots", for instace, knowing how everything is supposed to unfold already makes it harder for an author to tell what a normal reader will pick up on in the text and what they will miss. Learning to estimate this is, again, a skill that must be practiced. And good beta readers should pick up on it if you don't.). If a bunch of good writers look at your story and say "y'know, after the first act, this one character doesn't help the plot much and if you KILL them it will create great conflict for the other characters" but you love that character SO MUCH... at least now you've had it pointed out to you, you can hopefully think critically about their feedback and determine whether or not the ONLY reason you are keeping that character around is because you like them.

So in a nutshell: The trick isn't to stop being attached to your work, it is in practicing a) the ability to step back and examine it objectively anyway, and b) the willingness to make necessary changes even if they bum you out.

I've heard of writers who cry writing a scene in which they kill someone or do something terrible to a character. But they do it anyway.

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    This is a great answer. Being able to emotionally separate yourself from your work, and being open to objective critique of it from people who are not you, is a very important skill that not all authors master.
    – Sciborg
    Oct 14 '20 at 13:10
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Cruel To Be Kind...

In the right measure, passion and ruthlessness must go hand in hand. You must love your writing unless you're crazy-brilliant, and I'd argue you can't be without the passion. Nothing is sacred, however, and you must abandon cherished motifs and plotlines when the story transforms into something different.

The best example I can think of is characters. I LOVE my main characters passionately, but I beat the living **** out of them on a regular basis. (Okay, maybe there was that time I let my main character see her dad one last time before he died, but I think it totally worked in the end...) If they lived happy, content lives, they would be boring.

Now don't give up on the elements of the story you want to keep. Maybe it's the wrong story. So the 5 and dime from your childhood doesn't make sense in your gritty urban murder mystery. Maybe in the next story, it happens in a small town where it's the perfect element for small town charm (and murder).

I'm upvoting MarielS, especially about good beta readers (and editors, I might add). Everyone is blind to their own flaws, or else paralyzed by them. I haven't had one, but alpha readers go chapter by chapter, as I understand, while you write. These people need to like you well enough to read your garbage (at times) but not so well they love your garbage also (so no moms).

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  • Upvoting for nicely filling in the bits I didn't touch on (Especially the bit about moms! So true it hurts!)
    – MarielS
    Oct 15 '20 at 1:43
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Write what you love and love what you write.

I wrote a scene that provided deep backstory on my MC - it was the moment he was orphaned. I connected with his parents, though they barely are mentioned and the man who killed them - fell asleep driving his rig and woke up driving through a sedan. I wept for that driver who knew he’d killed at least two people and his life was never the same.

I once heard it said when writing a tragic scene, if the author is not saddened, does not cry, why should the reader? That makes sense to me. If the writer feels deeply while writing, emotion becomes infused in the work.

Love your writing, but see it clearly.

If you do not write with passion, your writing will not connect to an audience. No one will read past the first page if you lack passion. It falls flat and the reader knows and puts it down.

Love your characters but know them well.

You do not want writing to be a chore - that 5k words a day that no one wants to read, including the author. The more fun you have writing, the more that will translate to the reader and your work will not be dull.

Draw that line firmly and clearly on the side of passion and interest.

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It's good to be passionate about your work but you have to understand, once you release your work, people can interpret it in many different ways. When you write about a man with a gun, one person may interpret him as the good guy and someone else may interpret him as the bad guy. The conclusion is the ideas live in your head and are meaningful to you. That is what it means to be a creator.

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