Contrary to what you're probably thinking, this post is not about killing off characters. It's about a necessary act we writers all hate, know as murdering our little darlings—the act of deleting lines, scenes, and even chapters we love because they don't work with our story.
Assigning weight to comments when you process critiques is not an easy thing to do, especially if those comments are saying something you wrote is bad and should be changed or deleted. If you're a control freak like me, that makes it even worse. But if we're going to become better writers, land a publisher and or keep our stories from getting vilified in the reviews, we must humble ourselves and listen to the opinions of our critters—especially when that opinion is supported by the majority.
With my first WIP, virtually everyone who read it hated the way I began the first chapter. Although it was fairly well-written and it followed a (necessary & appropriate) prologue, I'd started it with a dream that disoriented the reader.
*blush* I was a newbie. What can I say?
Anyhow, I had already fallen in love with it before getting opinions. It was the second re-write, and I thought I'd really done something good. I mean, heck, I know the whole story. It wasn't disorienting to me at all. :P Cutting it (well, burying it deeper in the story actually) was the best thing I ever did—everyone loves the new chapter one—but it wasn't an easy change for me to make, and I fought it all the way.
Some reasons to cut or change part of your story are:
- It disorients or otherwise turns off your reader.
- It slows the pace and doesn't move the plot along. (An exception to this would be if it is needed by the reader, such as a scene to help them like a rather unlikeable character, or a slow part to give the reader a breather in a story with an intense, breakneck-paced plot.)
- It is a repeat of something you've already told the reader that they don't need help remembering. (Occasionally, a brief refresher is acceptable when the topic hasn't been visited much and or not in some time, but you have to do it carefully.)
You're probably wondering how this relates to insecurity, me being a control freak and all, but it does. I may be brimming with bravado on the outside, but on the inside, I can be as insecure about my writing as anyone else. I just hide it better.
One thing that made it easier for me to hit delete and murder my darlings was to save a copy of my work before making changes. When I strike out a particularly well-written line or scene, I save it in a file for 'deleted scenes.' Just because it didn't work for this story doesn't mean those painstakingly-crafted words won't work for another.
What little darlings have you murdered?
Was it difficult?
Did you find ways to make it easier on yourself?And if you didn't follow your critters' advice and published the work with the item unchanged, what was the reader response?
To visit the other blogs participating in Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group, go here—a linked list of the blogs on a separate page of my blog—or click on the icon above. It's linked to the IWSG page of Alex's blog.
@AlexJCavanaugh & #IWSG on Twitter.