Warning: Squeamish people should probably not read the following post.
A little over a week ago, I accidentally dropped a chair on my foot and my toenail started turning a weird color. It bled and hurt so bad it made it hard to walk, but I wasn’t exactly sure what to do about it. You wouldn’t think a little toenail would make such a big difference in the quality of my life.
Last Saturday, my foot felt sort of weird and when I looked down, I saw that my toenail had bent all the way back. Seriously. The whole thing, bent toward my ankle, hanging by a mere corner. I actually have a picture of it, and was going to post it, but I hesitated because, yeah, it’s sort of gross.
Anyway, so my dilemma became, do I rip it off all the way or let the last corner come off by itself? (I ended up cutting it off and currently I have no nail at all on my big toe. It looks weird.)
How does this pertain to writing, you ask?
Sometimes we drop a scene or character or backstory into our manuscript and even though it hurts and bleeds, we shove it in there anyway, thinking it is necessary for the story. The story goes on, but it’s limping and we know the reason why, but aren’t sure what to do about it. Don't we need it in the story?
So after a while of feeling weird about the it, one day you look at your manuscript and realize that the great idea, character, line, whatever, is barely hanging there and you have a choice to rip it out or put a bandaid on it and hope it resolves itself. In a few cases it can resolve on its own, but in my experience, it’s generally better to go with your gut and cut, cut, cut! (I’m a poet and didn’t even know it!)
Once you cut it out, you may feel your manuscript looks like a cat with no hair, pink and vulnerable, but this is a chance for something else to grow there, something better, something wonderful.
And that, my friends, is an analogy you won’t get anywhere else.