Ripping out words like stitches

As we work on our monthly word-count goals, one problem inevitably comes up. You write words that have to be deleted. They’re inconsistent with what went before, or they’re inauthentic, or they’re just irrelevant.

Watching your word count go backward is like watching a sweater unravel. You may never have had to unravel a sweater, but trust me—it’s just like deleting a scene from your work in progress.

Knitters also use the initialism WIP to describe their unfinished efforts. We also use the term UFO to describe “unfinished objects”—projects that seemed like a good idea when you read the pattern but halfway through you lose interest or find that the skills required are beyond your own, so you stick it in a closet hoping for future inspiration and new skills.

Photo by Kristen Stieffel

Photo by Kristen Stieffel

I have knitted, ripped back, and re-knitted the pictured sleeve—trust me, when I finish, it’ll be a sleeve—about three times now. I’m trying to align the stripes at the top of the sleeve with the armhole, and it’s proving a challenge. I’ve recalculated, recharted and reknit until I’m about ready to give up on sleeves and call this thing a vest.

But I won’t, partly because I’ve got all this yarn to use up and partly because I have a vision of a finished product and I want to achieve it. So I’ll keep ripping and knitting until I get it right.

The same way I keep deleting and rewriting.

About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

5 comments on “Ripping out words like stitches

  1. Much more painful for knitters since you can’t really keep going and see if your words eventually *don’t* have to be ripped out.

    • Yeah, you can get pretty far into a project before realizing something is wrong, and there are even a few tricks for fixing without ripping everything out, but for the most part, when you realize it’s off, you have to rip out and re-do. You can’t really edit a sweater. 😉

  2. […] ripped back the sleeve two more times since I last wrote. I think I finally got it. It’s taught me two things: first, never knit a striped sleeve […]

  3. […] a couple of times before about the parallels between writing a novel and knitting a sweater. Sleeves, like scenes, sometimes need to be undone and redone before they turn out correctly. Plotlines, like yarn ends, need to be untangled and woven […]

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