Can’t see the wood for the trees? It could be you’re getting so caught up in detail that you lose sight of the big picture. Your main objective is lost because you’ve put it aside in favour of smaller sub-objectives – some of which may lead you in the opposite direction.
Seeing the big picture takes practice and quickly shifting your viewpoint back and forth can be dizzying. One of the key factors is knowing what your main objective is in the first place. If you have that nailed, you can honestly ask yourself if your smaller objectives are taking you toward your overall goal or if they are leading you astray.
This brings me to another idiom: to kill your darlings. Some interpret it to mean that you should delete or ruthlessly edit any of your own writing you take a shine to. That’s not the case. Instead, this advice urges writers to look at the big picture of what they’re trying to achieve and (without mercy) remove the baggage. Prune back any elements that are weighing the story down. That can mean completely chopping those pearls of details that you’ve spent hours polishing. And this can include those personal favourites that you try and slip into every story. Think about the main objective. Is your detail part of the bigger picture? Does it propel the plot?
If your answer is ‘no’, it’s that unfortunate time to take your darling out to the woods and shoot them, no matter how emotionally attached you’ve become. Just make sure that before you pull the trigger you know the woods well enough to find your way back out…