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Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Killing My Darlings

“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

So in September (the past time I posted which is a long time to wait between posts, I know) I told you about the new book I started.

Well, progress was good. Up until about December anyway. I suddenly had a crisis of confidence and doubted everything I'd written - about 66k words which isn't too short of being about average, commercial novel length. I still had a lot of story to go. Only thing was, I wasn't entirely happy with how I had structured the story.

A lot of modern writers structure their books with more then one time line, or more than one point of view and that's all well and good. I've done it myself many times. But this time the split time line just wasn't working for the novel as a whole. Or at least that was my opinion. I struggled with the decision to start it again, work the story chronologically from beginning to end. Nothing wrong with that structure. It worked for Charles Dickens, Gabriel García Márquez and many other novelists whose books are classics today. (And I'm not saying I'm at their level by any stretch of the imagination). So why couldn't I stick to that structure?

My problem was that I'd come so far in the story, changing it so dramatically meant cutting out lots of scenes, moving several around, losing all the chapter titles I'd worked on to bring humour to the tale and losing dialogues I'd gone to great pains to write.

Never mind, I told myself. The important thing to me is not to sell the reader short. Plus, as writers we hope and we aim to make each piece of writing better than the last.

So in an attempt to write a better story for my readers I took the plunge. I deleted scenes and dropped a complete plot idea which seemed funny and original at the time, convinced it wasn't working. I didn't think the reader would like the parts I eventually deleted, forget what I thought. They had to go.

I have killed my darlings to misquote Faulkner, King and anyone else who gave similar advice.

“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”

William Faulkner

Now as I edit the first draft, I am liking what is probably a whole new book but this time I'm feeling more confident about presenting it to the editor.

I think I'll have a version ready to read by the end of Februlry. Wish me luck!