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Killing Your Darlings - They warned me it would be rough, but still... (WriteBlog #12)

Since last I WroteBlogged, I've been editing my novel first draft in a few large sessions, along with keeping up my regular commitments. Long story short, I'm now three chapters into the edit and if I continue at this pace, I may even have something available to discuss at the next writing group meeting, after several quiet sessions while I waited to be happy with stuff.

So, in a bid to make this an interactive shared learning experience, here are my observations/thoughts/feelings from one whole week of hacking at the early parts of a rough early novel manuscript.

The Greatest Struggle Is Within

To be honest, I've been what some call a "churner" in my writing. Historically, I've enjoyed the thrill of pounding out a first draft far more than the harder labour of going back, taking a wider view of said scrawl and hammering it into something people besides my Mum might want to read. (No offence, Mum. Please don't stop reading the blog, I need your pageviews.)

But, as I've mused before, I think the current book has genuine potential and is in a not-too-awful state, so I should do my best to push through that barrier. That's one of the reasons I'm persisting in these regular blogs if we're being really honest - if I just don't bother finishing after talking about it so much, I'll feel like an utter nob.

So, I'm trying to focus on the creative fun parts of editing rather than the line-by-line torture: writing new subplots and chapters, fiddling with stuff to make other stuff work. So far, this has been a moderate success - although during one afternoon in which I had to write a slightly-different version of an existing scene because the old one just wasn't salvageable, I did find my brain wandering away a little.

Still, today was great, I really felt the parts sliding together and I wasn't even working on fresh material. Hopefully I'm finally getting to grips with the necessary attitude, and if not, I invite you all to come round my house and beat me soundly with sticks of bamboo.

Though Cutting Good Stuff Is A Bugger Too

I did read some blog posts about the editing process and a lot of them talk about the need to Kill Your Darlings. That's a big buzzphrase. And no, it doesn't refer to aspiring writers getting so frustrated with slow line-edits, they end up indulging in a killing spree - instead, it's the need to often remove scenes or story features you really like because they don't fit in/are superfluous to the rest of the piece.

I've had to do this a couple of times now, and let me tell you, the fact you may not get to read the scene where one of my characters sets their entire body on fire upsets me in a primal, spiritual way. There are other parts too, which had to die due to being pointless tangents.

I live in the quiet, perhaps desperate hope that I can fit some of the excised material into future work, but a lot of it is probably good for nothing else. Which is a shame as I loved writing a lot of it, I still remember the thrill of it first coming into existence. But I also know that the resultant story reads less like an unfocused "Yeah, let's chuck that in" ramble now, which is kinda satisfying.

All of which is to say: those bloggers may have been right. Shame, I always hoped I was the special flower the common advice didn't apply to. Bugger.

Now, I've got 45 minutes spare so am going to start the edits on chapter four. I'm actually excited to do it too, which is nice. Maybe I'm getting somewhere with my internal struggle after all.


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