“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
I’M LEARNING THE ART OF MURDER. It’s a slow, messy process. Sometimes I’m filled with remorse and regret, but with every act of violence, the next swing of the axe becomes easier. Allow me to explain how this pyschopathic streak took hold.
My YA time travelling novel has been through many drafts. It’s not that the initial concept was a bad idea. Man, it’s a great idea- I should know, I’ve lived with it for years. But it was also my first big writing project after a couple of decade’s hiatus (see my About page) and I’ve learned a lot along the way.
To write sparingly is an art form I’m struggling to achieve. Begone overblown ADJECTIVES! Die in agony tortured ADVERBS! May you perish alone and unloved, my overuse of the SEMI-COLON!
To reach the barely competent stage I’m at, I’ve had at least four rewrites of the YA novel, written first drafts of two others, umpteen short stories, filled twenty five note books with plots, character studies, overheard conversations and observations AND been one of the main contributors to my writing group’s blog https://allwritethen.wordpress.com/
And still I struggle to ‘kill my darlings’, to edit out what’s superfluous, what slows the plot, what muddles the narrative, what doesn’t fit the style or theme.
Although… Just recently, I’ve excised an entire chapter from near the opening of my book. It was tense, creepy and frightening with a sniff of the pervy stalker about it- all great things- but the tone was wrong and it introduced the villain too early.
So, I murdered it, rubbed it out of the narrative and buried the body in a separate file. Maybe one day I’ll resurrect it, transforming the withered corpse into a short story. But for now it’s dead, an ex-chapter, pushing up the literary daisies, gone to join the choir proverbial.
Now my plot is cleaner, punchier, more perfectly formed. Problem is… There’s this other chapter. It’s flabby, carrying too much weight and really, everything that happens in it could be summed up in a few sentences at the start of the next section.
Now, where did I put my axe.