Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Killing Your Darlings

I can't remember where I first heard the phrase, "Kill your darlings." It may have been at an RWA meeting, maybe in Stephen King's On Writing. Most likely, though, I probably just found it online somewhere and didn't really understand it until King's book. It's controversial, well-debated advice. Some people will tell you it means if you're stuck, cut the parts that you're attached to because you're probably favoring them too much. They'll say your darlings hold you back. Others will say it's advice to ignore. Why kill something that's good? It's okay to have darlings, they'll say.

After the week I've had, I have my own understanding of "Kill your darlings."

You're probably sick to death of this song, right?
It means, "Be able to let go." For whatever reason, you have to be able to let go, no matter how in love you are with it. Whether that means keeping something from the readers because there's no easy way to introduce it, or completely destroying a line, a character, a subplot, or even a plot. You have to be able to take the red pen to it.

Let go of the hilarious but out-of-character line, the unbelievable character trait, and the Deus Ex Machina Band-aid over the plothole. Continuity, character development, and believability are more important. If it gets in the way, let it go.
Let go of worldbuilding and backstory if you can't make it fit naturally into your story. Let go of the idea of showing off everything you've made, no matter how cool or deep or interesting it is. If it doesn't fit, let it go.

Let go of the character, the idea, or the name that's been done by someone bigger and/or better than you. It's not worth the copycat accusations at best and lawsuits at worst. No matter how much you love it, no matter how long you've used it, let it go.

Yes, some of these are from experience. That last one definitely is. God, it was so hard to ax, but when it's your untried idea versus George R. R. Martin's published work, Martin wins. I had no idea he'd made a superhero world where the heroes are called "Aces." I'm counting my blessings I haven't published anything in my series yet. It would have been a disaster for my career simply because I didn't know. So I had to take a kryptonite ax to the name I've had for my heroes for four years. The Aces are dead, long live the Arches.

So commiserate with me, writer readers. What darlings have you had to let go in a particularly violent fashion?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Happy New Year!

Honestly, it feels like just yesterday we were freaking out over Y2k, and now it's 2015. Unbelievable.

It's been a busy few weeks for me, and it'll continue to be for a few more. However, I'm still working on moving forward. Despite the Christmas holidays involving much more than anticipated (including one very nice surprise) and leaving me with fewer free days, I scurried, forced myself to work, and knocked two thousand words out of the park to finish the four short stories I wanted done on 12/31. Goal 1, done.

As for Goal 2, the Secret Santa Story Swap? Oh my god, I love my prompt. It's been an adventure just figuring out how to include the desired elements, but I've done it in a way I'm excited to write. The story's plotted and outlined, the world is built. All that's left is write... and, well, edit, of course.