Writers are full of advice for one another. “Write every day,” some of them say. “The first draft is you telling the story to yourself.” “Kill your darlings.”
Kill your darlings.
It’s a simple idea: you can’t be afraid to cut stuff you really like if it doesn’t fit. Even if it’s the best scene you’ve ever written, with dialogue crafted into perfect prose, if it doesn’t fit in the book, you have to cut it.
Now, most authors will keep scraps and bits they’ve cut like this in case they find somewhere to put it later on down the road. Just because this particular scene doesn’t work in this book doesn’t mean it won’t work in another book. Your darling may still see the light of day.
And then there’s what I’m experiencing. I’ve been going through book 4, giving it a once-over before sending it off to my editor at the end of the month. And…
…and dear lord, the first third of the book is just dead boring. It’s flat, lifeless, and doesn’t really do much besides move the proverbial pieces around the board, getting them in place for when things do start to pick up. It bored me when I was reading through it. I hated it. It plodded in the worst possible way.
So I cut it. All 20,000 words of it. A full third of the book, just gone.
Am I insane? Couldn’t I have just worked on it, made what was there more interesting? I mean, I’d already invested all this time and effort and energy into the thing.
But no, you gotta kill your darlings, even if they’re not quite as darling as you’d like. You can’t be afraid to put massive swathes of your book on the chopping block if they just don’t work. And this 20,000 words just did. Not. Work.
I’m going to try to rewrite that chunk of book over the next couple of weeks. I’d still like to hit my (self-imposed) deadline to get the book off to the editor by the beginning of June. I spent a bit of time yesterday plotting out what I’ll do in the rewrite. It has me far more excited than what I had originally.
This book has been the most challenging for me to write. It was the second Hazzard novel I ever wrote, way back in, like, 2013, and it’s now on its third major draft (where I’ve rewritten massive chunks, not just little tweaks here and there). This damn book is my problem child, but it’s gonna get written.
Even if I have to kill half of it in the process.