This has been a busy week—you see, I killed some of my darlings.
I’m not completely sure who this priceless bit of advice originally came from. But Stephen King probably has the best take on it with his “kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings” in his On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (every writer should read it!).
Thus, it was decided to make some homicidal changes to a particular project (which we shall not mention here) that I’ve been working on for so long that it’s become more of a joke and less of a feasible book. But the thing about murderous intentions is that there is a good chance of regretting it later. Here are a few things I do to make the process easier:
Document versions: When I know that there will be only minor changes, I just save the file with a new version number (say, “Long_and_Pointless_Story_v1,0” becomes “Long_and_Pointless_Story_v1,1” or “v2,0”, depending on how minor the changes will be or my mood). This lets me quickly read through the story so far and put in or remove the teeny little plot point that I’ve decided to change.
A “deleted” document: Usually, I also keep a “Long_and_Pointless_Story-DELETED” document where I paste the bits that have been cut out. I find it makes it easier to pull them out and reinstate them if needed, whole or part.
Start with a blank page: Literally. Sometimes there is no saving it and you just have to abandon your ghastly little poppet.
Kill someone: Again, literally. In your story, silly. What did you think?!
Well, in this case, this egocentric little scribbler’s heart bled a bit, but it’ll live. No one had to die (you can relax, Marie); even though some of my favourite passages will never see light of day. Neither did I have to abandon years of work and start from scratch.
The darlings are dead and this manuscript may yet become a book some day. Some day.
2 Replies to “Week #41: Killing some darlings”
Ha ha! I remember when I wrote my first book, “The Smile of Vanuvati”, my kids took a violent dislike to two of the original five child-protagonists. After much heart-burning and being yelled at, I axed those two innocents! Must say I didn’t miss them much, though — made for a much cleaner narrative!
It makes me wonder how questionable one’s judgement can be about one’s own work!