Kill Your Darlings


Your novel will thank you for it. . .

Your novel will thank you for it. . .


If you are a writer then you’ll know the above saying.

If you know a writer then you’ve probably heard them say the above.

Kill your darlings means, in a very loose translation: Although you might be in love with a piece of your writing (a character, a scene, a sentence), you might think its the best damn piece of writing you’ve ever done, full of lyrical metaphors, cunning wit and beautiful description, definitely worthy of a nobel prize, but if it isn’t “doing it” for the novel, then you have to kill it.

Kill. Crush. Destroy. Delete. Annihilate.

You get the idea.

But what do I mean by ‘doing it’? You may remember a post I did a few weeks back talking about character. I said that a character must pull his weight in a story, by bringing more than one thing to the table. Three dimensional characters, the important ones, by default carry their own weight. Its the lesser characters, the sidekicks, the butlers, the dude you meet at the corner store that you need to worry about. Do they need to be there? Can you combine two to make one and simplify the story?

The same is true of scenes. A scene HAS to have a reason. No give on that one. If it doesn’t have a reason or a point then it is not a scene. Its a slice of life or a vignette and it doesn’t belong in a novel.

The reason could be simple like introducing a character or introducing a conflict. If its a good scene it’ll do both at the same time. If its a great scene it’ll do all these things and more.

But there is something else. All scenes in the story should do, at the minimum, this one thing: They should drive the novel forward. They should point like arrows toward the finish line. They are there to complete the character arcs and the journey and get the hero to the end (one way or another).

I’ve been working through alpha reader feedback and completing my own edit of the novel and this week I’ve found three scenes which I’ve ultimately decided to remove or change in shape or form. Why? Because they weren’t driving the story forward. I was cruising in fourth gear, steadily working my way toward the climax (wah-hey!) and then these scenes chuck me back down to second and make me turn a corner.

They are good scenes. They read easy, they are enjoyable and they bring *something* to the table. The last of the three is a pretty massive scene. It was pretty damn cool. I loved it. Robert Garry kicked some serious butt. He did some killa’ damage. If you have heard of Fuck Yeah moments, then you probably have a fair idea of what I”m talking about.

But its going.

I’m going to miss it. It has some really great qualities and it does tick a lot of boxes. It bring a lot to the table, but its almost a side story, a reaction to events rather than a scene of Robert being a proactive warrior and creating events, of driving the story. Remember than in the third quarter of the novel the protagonist should be a driven attacker, a person who knows what they need to do and goes about doing it.

With the scene gone however, it leaves a pretty big hole. I need a replacement scene. The scene won’t be on the same scale, but it will accomplish all the GOOD things that the original scene did, but it will do more. It will drive the hero forward in his journey, emotionally AND physically. It’s probably going to merge with a later scene and become a pretty emotional point for our hero. He is going to realise some stuff. Things are going to change for him.

Its going to be pretty magical.

But you know, without the magic, because this is science fiction.

Editing Progress

Here is this weeks progress meter for Editing, Round 2:

Progress Meter

 

Page 391/ 595 (65.7%)

 

The overall page count has gone down slightly, and this doesn’t include the big scene that’s about to get the chop. It’ll be interesting to see what next week’s progress meter looks like. I’m ripping through the editing and should have this completed in October, ready for the beta readers. Are you excited? I’m excited!

Fantastic Books
FBP_Logo_Tag_CMYK_v1

It’s fun having a publisher. You can talk about publishing stuff. March 2014 is coming up around the corner and although I’m still concentrating on the editing I have to think about next year.

Needless to say some pretty exciting things are coming up. Stay tuned. . . (Yes I’m being intentionally vague).

Commander’s Log Podcast
Commander's Log Cover art

Episode 10B finally came out late last week. Only when I uploaded it did I realise it had almost been a month since episode 10A. That’s what you get when you sit around waiting for Drew Wagar, author of Elite:Reclamation to finish his novel. He was worth the wait though, we had a pretty good chat about the state of the Elite books, what information we are waiting for from Frontier Developments and then we get down to business and duke it out, thumbwar styles!

Who wins? Well its my podcast, so . . . you’ll just have to listen and find out.

Where should I head next on the podcast? Anyone have a favourite system that needs visiting by Commander Harper?

If you haven’t listened you can click on the link below. But of course you’ve already listened, haven’t you?

Episode 10B “Everything is pretty Fantastic”

—-

Thanks for stopping by. Hope you enjoyed it. Have you killed any of your darlings? I would love to hear your stories.

Thanks,

John

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10 responses to “Kill Your Darlings

  1. THanks for another update and ep.10B will be listened to tonight in the train back home from work.
    Funnily, I write documents for my work. They’re mostly researches or documents that describe an accompanying offer. And you know what: sometimes I reread a document and have to say: OK, this just has to go out! It’s derailing me from the goal I’m heading at and therefore I’d better get rid of it. If they are my darlings remains to be seen but I think I can relate a bit to the difficulties you’re having.

  2. I think I’d say ‘Kill your darlings’ applies to designing too. Whether it’s a logo, web page or exhibition stand etc. The creative process is obviously different, but it’s fair to say that some fine ideas have to be dropped for better ones, perhaps to be revived in another project in some way.

  3. Hi John,

    Aaaargh – the only sane response to this part of editing. Deciding whether a scene stays or goes can depend on so many factors. The last story I wrote I hacked off and re-wrote over a third before it ‘felt’ right.

    Good luck coming up with the replacement scene – here’s hoping it’s something even better.

    • Thanks T.J I have my list of requirements for the scene, I just have to find a way to make them all work without it being contrived. I might keep editing and just let the problem fester away in the brain for a bit.

  4. When in Tionisla… you might want to visit the Orbital Graveyard. 🙂
    Don’t bother picking up slaves: too dangerous. It’s best to pick up some Computers and Machinery and take them to Bemaera. It’s an Agricultural world so you might even find some dead trees overthere.

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