Saturday, July 18, 2015

Killing Your Darlings

You've probably heard that phrase before but have you ever done it? Do you know what it means?

I didn't know until I read it in one of the many books on writing that I've consumed over the past few months. Killing your darlings describes the act of eliminating scenes that you love in favor of establishing a more cohesive plot flow.

Sometimes, we write these amazing scenes that either don't really add to the story or are in some way obstructive or don't really fit anywhere. In this current project, I had written an entire middle section that fit pretty well until I took some writing courses and decided to write a backstory.

During the courses, I wrote scenes according to assignment instructions and actually ended up liking those scenes enough that I wanted them included in the novel. Unfortunately, because those scenes were written out of context, including them meant some big changes. Mainly in the middle section. 

To say that cutting out an entire middle was both easy and hard all at the same time is quite the understatement. I worked hard to make it all fit together. In the end, however, I had to make the difficult decision to leave something out. Now that's it's done, I do believe it has accomplished something that I've been struggling with for the last couple of months. It has allowed me to speed up the edits of this darn draft. 

Why would I decide to cut out perfectly good scenes that were already, mostly finished and acceptably ready for public consumption? I'll tell you.

Reason #1: In writing the backstory for this novel, I introduced a character at the beginning of the book that I originally created in the middle. This meant that the already written scene introducing her was now moot. I could not figure out how to change it so that it fit without feeling like I had just dumped it in there for no reason. 

Reason #2: After making the decision on a certain plot point, parts of future scenes were no longer valid.

Reason #3: The new scenes just fit much better than the old.

There were other, smaller reasons but basically, these three made the decision for me. So, I cut out a huge middle section. Now, this does mean that full rewrites need to be done, which is actually a good thing. I have not been enjoying this part of writing at all so being able to create something new in the middle of this unenjoyable phase has been so nice. Once the newly written stuff is in place, it will be a fairly simple matter of making connections between the old and the new then sending it off to my writer friends, who have been waiting and waiting to get their hands on it ever since my first missed deadline of June 1.

I'm excited because I will finally have a cohesive draft that I can also read through and mark up with more red. I am still looking at this thing hitting Amazon during the first quarter of 2016. Again, this will depend upon getting a completed manuscript to the graphic artist I have chosen to work with for the cover, as well as how long it will take her to do the job. Her work is outstanding so I really do want to give her the time she needs to come up with something outstanding for me.

I guess the moral of this story is to not be afraid to kill your darlings. No, it doesn't feel at all good but in the long run, it's usually for the best. 

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