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.
Just popping by from the IWSG :)
I think you're right, but it's hard being criticised isn't it lol. I wouldn't describe myself as a control freak, but putting my work "out there" was still pretty scary lol.
I've just completely stopped working on my WIP because I don't feel it's good enough. I was so fed up with editing and rewriting. I learnt a lot from the experience, and now, I'm ready to move on, put it behind me :)
Good luck honey xx
I'm half joking about the control freak thing. I think stubborn is probably a better word.Delete
I almost feel that way about my first one, too, but I love the story and the characters so much (and the sequel) that I'm going to see it through. I'm just letting it sit right now while I write my debut novel. I'll go back to it later with fresh eyes.
Thanks for visiting. :)
Hey Melissa. I know that it is part of the process, but I am not looking forward to it. It is going to be torturous, but I have to keep in mind that if it's making the work better, then it is worth it in the end.ReplyDelete
Very true! Thanks for visiting. :)Delete
Phew! I was hoping this post wasn't about murdering your critique partners. ;) Great point! Sometimes you just have to trust the critter consensus.ReplyDelete
Ha! Well... (kidding :P)Delete
Great post, Melissa. It's important to be able to look at the story through a different pair of eyes.ReplyDelete
Thanks. So true. Knowing the whole thing is both a blessing and a handicap. Thanks for visiting. :)Delete
What I do is to cut the appropriate lines or section and then I stuff the offending words into a aptly named "Chapter Dump" file where they stay until the final draft is approved...
Then, if I need them, they're still available... if not, no worries :)
Happy Fourth of July :)
Good idea. :)Delete
I've been known to parrot the "murder your darlings" line quite a bit myself--it's great advice. A lot of us do tend to clutch and grasp at the fruits of our labor. It's hard to let go bits of something you toiled over, but it must be done!ReplyDelete
As for me, I'm actually contemplating murdering my entire novel. I was working on it last year before I started focusing on short stories, and I've grown a lot as a writer since I took a break from it. Now, I honestly think I was writing it in the wrong genre. When I go back to it, I think I'll have to wipe the slate clean and start all over. That's going to be tough.
I hear ya. I'm not looking forward to revising my first one either, but I hope after spending enough time away from it, going back with fresh eyes will help. Thanks for stopping by. :)Delete
Thanks for stopping by my blog. Great post. I forgot about ISWSG. Going to go remedy that soon.ReplyDelete
Thanks. I'm scheduling them ahead so I don't forget. I love that I can do that with blogger. ;)Delete
I killed my prologue... which in fact killed my book. The book is about my girl character, but it started with the boy. Without the prologue, it's jarring and confusing. I added the prologue back, but someone told me that it messed with the ending because there were two lines that gave it away (essentially). I cut those lines. It meant the same thing. Sent it off that way... and got 2 offers for publication.ReplyDelete
So.. I"m all about killing my 'darlings' ;)
Found you through IWSG :)
Very interesting. Congrats on the pub. offers!Delete
Thanks for stopping by. :)
I've killed off entire chapters! In Novel #1, I chopped the first 2,000 words and didn't look back! I learned a long time ago that everything in a story is temporary - I can change it, delete it, put it back, and do all of those things again and again. In a way, its fun to play with it and see what happens! :-)ReplyDelete
You hit the nail on the head. We can love our story's parts, but we need to love it as a whole more--enough to make changes and cut things when needed.Delete
Glad you stopped by. :)
I'm still early on in my novel's first draft so no darlings killed yet. In fact, I've had to go back and add in a whole chapter as well as several scenes. The edit should be interesting. Great IWSG post!ReplyDelete
Oh, you will. You will. LOL But seriously, thanks. It's not an easy process, but it's worth it. :)Delete
Hi Melissa! Oh, I couldn't agree more with your post, all of it! I'm sitting on a bed of needles right now, waiting for my copy edit to come back. This person has agreed to not only copy edit, but send back notes attached, more like a critique added in.ReplyDelete
I know, for certain, there will be many darlings I'll have to murder.
I love your mater picture up there! Too funny!
LOL - The picture inspired the post, actually. Fotolia has some great stuff. ;)Delete
Thanks for stopping by. :)
Love your post title! It made me giggle. What a great way to overcome insecurities :-)ReplyDelete
I save every rough draft, just in case...
I'm glad you liked it. :)Delete
I wrote a play a few years back and really needed to cut the time down by a good half hour. As a result I ended up cutting a beautiful scene between my MC and his Father. I loved it; it was so full of emotion, but it did nothing to progress the plot. I fought over it in my head for weeks, and then I just did it. And, actually, it felt like a burden had been lifted.ReplyDelete
There are a couple of scenes in my first WIP that will probably meet the same fate. I love them, but they may need to go. :( I'm hoping when I trim the excess elsewhere and speed the pace that I'll be able to keep at least one of them.Delete
Thanks for stopping by. :)
That is the great thing about having critique partners... they see things you are blind to! This is also why I love Scrivener, you can save old drafts very easily in that program and return to them if you need to.ReplyDelete
Allison (Geek Banter)
So true! So true! I poke fun at critters sometimes, but a good one is worth their weight in gold. :)Delete
I've got a deleted scenes folder too and it does help me cut out the 'little darlings' (<==love that). It also made it easier taking my story in a slightly different direction. And you're absolutely right, getting your story into the hands of a good CP can make all the difference in the world. (:ReplyDelete
I love the saying, too, but I can't take credit for it. ;)Delete
I have to agree with everything you wrote. It's hard to get to the point when you can kill your darlings...hard but necessary...but still HARD, dang-it! It usually takes me several revisions (and several critter bashings) to work up the fortitude to cut them. Ah, well. C'est la vie! :-)ReplyDelete
"Critter bashings" LOL I'm guilty of a few of those. hahahaDelete
I know we're not supposed to argue a crit, but...
Ah, it's so hard to kill those little darlings. I have these two characters that I love, but they are in one scene and would be cut first thing. I like the idea of keeping them in their own document so they don't have to disappear forever. :) Great post!ReplyDelete
Thanks for visiting! :)Delete
I learned early on to kill my darlings from my crit partners. But I just KNEW I'd want to bring them back, so I slipped the little darlings into a folder so I could easily retrieve them. After all, I might never write as brilliant a line again!ReplyDelete
Funny thing is, I never resurrected a single one of them. LOL I finally deleted the folder and didn't bother to keep it any more.
I haven't yet either. ;) Thanks for visiting. :)Delete
Nice post, but I can't get past thinking the title should be: Deciding "Whom" to Kill. Am I wrong?ReplyDelete
Ha! You're probably right. :DDelete