Friday, July 9, 2010

Undead Darlings

A self-centered writing update...please forgive my self-indulgence :)

With the house to myself last night, I poured a glass of wine and sat down with the fat stack of binder-clipped pages that is my hot mess of a work-in-progress. And I started tearing it up. It's already gotten quite a thorough beating, but this one topped them all--anything with a tentative question mark next to it was brutally x-ed out, large notes about "missing XYZ" scrawled in the margins, arrows darting everywhere, moving sections and pointing to extensive notes on the backs of pages.

There's a maxim of writing or, more precisely, editing, that states that you must kill your darlings. Some of the loveliest, most cherished bits you've written are the least applicable to the story--and out they must go. And three of my very favorite scenes were counted among the many slain. One simply had no place, as the POV character in it had been reassigned to a less important role, and a scene of her inner monologue made no sense. Another just seemed extraneous, one of those bits that only the author need know about a character, and a third took the story in a direction I decided to prune away.

Giant pen marks through all of them, the pages tossed aside.

And then. There was a tiny, vital bit of info in that first scene that needed to go somewhere else. If the no-longer-POV character didn't know it and share it, who would? Something clicked. That scene was important--just in a different POV. And with a very different twist that, suddenly, fixed half the issues I had with the storyline.

Back in it went, slated for major overhaul, but with the same essence.

And another nagging question--a character has a major change of heart which causes him to contribute to the central conflict of the story. But why, I kept hitting a brick wall, why the change of heart? Well, duh. What happened in that extraneous scene would change anyone's worldview. So, again, slated for major revisions, but back in.

So it might seem that, after all, I'm reluctant to kill my darlings. In fact, these ideas never would have fermented had the scenes not been cut. If I hadn't said goodbye to them, they couldn't have resurfaced in new ways for me. I had to get them out, like weeds in the vegetable garden, before realizing that they might just be flowers that can go in the window box. And that third section? Deader than a doornail.

Probably.

12 comments:

selestiele said...

As I drown in a sea of revisions (I cut about four major scenes from the original this past week for lack of movement), this post was very welcome. I feel the pain and I'm glad you received inspiration from the cut scenes. It gives me the courage to cut more if I need to.

I'm on editing round two, now, and have found countless repetitions (do I really only know 10 words of the English language? Cripes!). I'm afraid to use my toner to print it all out, since I know it will be binned.

Okay, back into the fray. Anyone have any swimmies?

GentlewomanThief said...

A very interesting post - I agree that sometimes you have to do things to learn from them in some way, be it removing a scene to learn its true importance or writing a scene that only you as the author need to know and having to have the heart to chop it (but keep it in a safe place - you never know when or where else it might come in useful). I like to think that if you learn from something, then it's never a waste.

Miss Rosemary said...

I hate brick walls. They are such pains! But everyone has them and eventually knock them down. You'll get there and you'll love the revisions you write :)

brownpaperbaggirl said...

Writing, like life, is a journey. Just keep muddling through with those revisions! Your darlings will remain darlings through it all :)

Connie said...

I think it's always that way. Often I write something and I'm not sure why it's there, but then in the midst of revisions that "thing" morphs into something desperately needed (until then it was sort of a place keeper). Does that make sense to anyone but me? :)

Lua said...

I’m all swamped with revision myself- red pen marks everywhere and I had to kill my very first paragraph even though I loved it so much. It wasn’t doing any good or serving any purpose so it had to go… Cutting and editing is hard but nothing looks better than a polished manuscript :)

Corra McFeydon said...

Yep - trimming the fat makes the goods and bads within a scene more visible.

When I start writing, I find myself juggling a lot with what I thought was finished. I think part of this is due to coming into the scene with fresh eyes.

:-)

- Corra

The Victorian Heroine

Kat Zhang said...

Great post, Rowenna! Revisions are a back and forth process, I think. I've heard some writers say that once they cut a scene or make a change, they never regret it...but that's not quite true for me :)

I spent hours once changing the end of a chapter, which resulted in subtle long-term changes to the next three chapters...only to realize that the character shifts these changes added up to did NOT work with the overall story.

So I spent hours more going back and changing everything to the way it originally way :( Sigh...

Rowenna said...

Thanks so much, everyone! Glad to know I'm not the only one who wrestles with editing--and excited that others find bits of gold in discarded pages :)

Rowenna said...

Thanks so much, everyone! Glad to know I'm not the only one who wrestles with editing--and excited that others find bits of gold in discarded pages :)

missbluestocking said...

I don't think I've never experienced the excrutiating pain of killing a darling. Besides my two main characters, I don't really have any darlings. Isabelle is one of my critique partner's favourite character; she had to threaten me to keep Isabelle in, when I was entertaining the idea of doing away with her. And then there was Isabelle's suitor whom I was planning to kill away too... And Lucas' Aunt... I wiped out Lucas' brother from the plains of this earth.

Yah, as you can see, I am not so partial to my secondary characters. They only exist, really, to stimulate my hero and heroine's own story. So it's a labor to write about them. It is only after a hundred revisions that I start to sorta like them...

Rowenna said...

Hehe it's funny, June--I often end up liking a secondary character as much or more than the main characters!

I think the most painful kills for me aren't people I do away with, but scenes I really like--hard to see them go into the scrap heap. Or, as I like to consider it, recycle bin. Who knows...maybe they'll get used later :)