Monday, December 5, 2011

Commiting Murder
A lot of times when you’re a writer, you have to commit murder.
I’m not just talking about your characters. I’m talking about your writing.
There is an adage in the profession, supposedly said by a writer: “Kill your darlings.”

You see there will come a time in your writing when you will write a scene that is, in your opinion, the best thing you’ve ever written. The images will leap off the page and the prose will flow perfectly and you will sit back and read it again and again and think, wow!

That’s happened to me before. You write something and, oh, perhaps it was just one of those times when you were really “on.” Everything in the universe came together at that moment and you created the best writing of your life.

Sometimes you have to kill it.

If the scene doesn’t add to your story, if the chapter you just finished, slows the pace down or contributes zip to the plot, you have to get rid of it. Cut it, edit it. Kill it.

God, it’s a tough decision. To sit there, reading something that you created knowing that it’s GOOD and also knowing that it doesn’t belong. It can hurt. I mean physically.
Sometimes you luck out and can rework some minor things so that it can stay, but those times are rare. Sometimes you just have to realize that no matter how good the scene is, it has to go.

Just did it. Deleted half a chapter because it didn’t belong. It was taking the story in a direction I didn’t want it to go. So I wrote another chapter.

And I don’t like it, either. This one has all the excitement of a bowl of pudding.

So here I sit at the keyboard, finger on the button, ready to kill my creation. It hurts. Kinda.

So how can I do it, Rick? How can I cut something I’ve written?

You have to keep in mind several things:

One: No writing is ever wasted. Every word you write is practice, making you a better writer. Whether anyone reads it or not, it helps to mold you, sculpt you into making you the writer you need to be.

Two: It’s not about that scene or that character in the end. It’s about the quality of the overall project. I killed a lot of scenes, lots of words before Surivor’s Affair was published. But it’s a better book because of it (and the reviewers have agreed so there!). I killed some more in THE AFFAIRS OF MEN to get it the way I wanted it.

It’s easy to compromise when you’ve put weeks, months, even years into this novel that just slogs along and you wonder if it will ever get finished. It’s easy to compromise for the sake of getting it done, or sparing you a long rewrite. Believe me, I understand. Anyone who’s written a book can relate.

Kill your darlings. Mold those words, that scene, that book, into your vision and don’t compromise because it’s easier. That’s the mark of a weak, amateur writer and you don’t want to be that kind. Hit the button and put it out of it’s misery and start again.

One day, you’ll be glad you did.

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