I don't think of myself as a risk-taker. I don't like roller coasters, I get anxious driving in new situations, and my idea of fun is to curl up under a cozy blanket with a good book. But when I'm revising, taking risks is almost a requirement if I want to make my story stronger.
Here are some of the big risks I've been taking in the last couple of weeks:
Cutting out good writing. It's scary, but sometimes parts of my book where I really loved the writing have to go. It feels like I'm taking a huge chance, not knowing if whatever I replace it with will be better. I can only do it if I comfort myself with the thought that all that good writing is in another version of the file and I can get it back if I need it.
[When I read the improved version, I know those elegantly-worded sections won't ever be coming back. My story doesn't need them.]
Changing the beginning. Messing with the opening paragraph (actually, the whole first chapter) makes me nervous, especially when my crit partners didn't find much wrong with it. Since the first chapter sets the tone for the whole novel, these changes spill over into later chapters, gathering momentum, and I soon find that more and more changes are needed. Aack!
[When I come back and read it later, I realize the changes aren't as big and overwhelming as I thought. My words still capture what I originally envisioned. Sigh of relief.]
Taking out drama. I tend to throw a lot of obstacles at my protagonist, sometimes several in one chapter. I'm learning that too much drama doesn't give the reader a clear emotion to focus on. Cutting out action still worries me. Will the story be exciting enough? Will it hold my reader's attention? Should I risk it? I have to start small, reminding myself that it doesn't hurt to try. I can always put it back the way it was if it doesn't work out. What's few more hours of writing, anyway?
[My 11-year-old decided to re-read the early version of my story this week and commented that a lot of the story events happen "just in time" and it seemed unrealistic. Huh. Maybe there will be some benefit to losing some of the drama.]
It's hard work, but I'm learning to take more risks as a writer. One of the bonuses is that it stretches my mind in entirely new directions. I've stumbled onto a few great ideas which I know will improve the story.
What risks have you taken lately in your writing?