2017 THEME: Editing Fiction (Because that's what I'm in the middle of doing.)
What is the Blogging from A to Z challenge and where can I find more participants? Right here.
That painful post in which we discuss Killing our darlings. Grab your tissues and a comfort beverage. We're going to relive some trauma.
If you have written a short story and edited it, you're familiar with chopping off a favorite sentence or two. Maybe it was a witty or touching line of dialogue, or a clever description. You mourned the loss with a sigh or a sniff.
Novels tend to have a lot more trauma simply because there are a lot more words involved. If you've written for a while, like, say, you're on your third or seventh novel, there will likely be a lot less darling killing going on. Once you've experienced the trauma, you'll work hard to avoid it. Even us pantsers will do everything possible to avoid it, including a bit of planning, even if it's all in our heads.
I once wrote a novel (my first) and spend years making it wonderful (a bloated mess) because I was learning (a lot) and didn't want to let it go. And so I give you (after much learning and wonderful and patient critique partners), a look into my own first editing trauma.
You're happily reading along during an editing pass when you suddenly realize the Barthromians, a race of people you've enjoyed working into your masterful sci-fi novel over several revisions, who have been with you for years while working on this novel, need to be deleted. Cruelly wiped from existence! Ripped from the very pages of your novel! All because your MC can avoid that interaction completely and accomplish the same character development in a lot less words using a different race also in the story. Not to mention, you may or may not have named them something that sounds like bathroom as a joke. We're done there, right? No.
That romantic evening with the fancy dance party where everyone is dressed up was fun to write, but totally doesn't fit in with the rest of the story once it's all put together. But dammit, it was fun to write and makes you feel all fuzzy inside! How special. Hand me the chainsaw.
The special weapon that makes your MC super dangerous also makes them a bit too powerful to be believable - but there's a whole backstory to how she got it and she uses it in three fights and...and... Yeah, suck it up. It needs to go.
But what about that cool space ship design you spent days on? No.
The guy who the MC violently and graphically kills in a jealous fit of rage? If he's going to be the PROtagonist, no.
The early version of the MC who shared a name with a character in a cartoon you liked as a kid? No.
Okay, can I keep the third ex partner of the MC? We spent a lot of time on him and there's that whole backstory! We get the point from the fact she already has two ex partners. Axe him.
But I can keep MC's best friend, right? She needs friends. We need a workable word count. No.
I let the cool weapon go. Can she keep her special power cybernetic eyes? For the same reason, no.
Fine. But I'm keeping the spiffy new body armor. No, you're not. Gone.
You get the idea. These are some of the many things I've cut from one novel. And I talk to myself a lot in person and in blog posts. It's totally normal. *nods reassuringly*
This is where I offer consolation and suggest starting each major editing pass with a new document because it makes losing these people, places, and things you've spend so much time on, less painful. They're not gone, but they're not cluttering up your finished piece either. And you never know, there might come a time when that very thing will come in handy in another story. Repurposing darlings
is another coping skill when you have major losses. Blogging about my discarded darlings was also good therapy.
If you want more examples of darlings I've had to cut, visit the Victims of the Knife posts. Some have been lucky enough to come back. We'll visit one such lucky guy on X day.
Have you had to kill any darlings lately?