Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sleeping Beauties

Every writer who’s every had a conversation with anybody about editing and publishing has heard the phrase ‘kill your darlings’. It’s a phrase about being willing to cut anything unessential to the main plot of your story (unless you write murder mysteries, then it’s a double entendre). The problem is, ideas are our currency, and it is painful to burn money. This twist or turn, that character… it’s PAINFUL to lose them forever…

But I had an epiphany this morning as I trudged through the snow… we don’t NEED to kill them. We can just give them a nice dose of the Draught of Living Death and then we are free to kiss them awake again as needed. Let me e’splain…

That First Novel

Fan fiction aside, my first novel took me well over two years to write. It began as an idea that wouldn’t leave me alone in 2000 (living in one of the houses that backed up to THESE woods… with my family, including my 5-year old… erm, and a homeless man who lived in the woods and would make an easy scapegoat)—It was a time in my life I hadn’t written a WORD of fiction for about 7 years. It was a GREAT idea, and I wrote scenes in my head and named characters, but I didn’t write anything.

In 2005 when I first started dappling into fan fiction (as back up for a point I was trying to argue about the Potterverse *rolls eyes*) I hadn’t thought about my little story for quite a while, but a few months later a reader suggested writing something original (thank you, Natasha) and so my idea began to dance again.

Now you can see… in 5 years I had ONE idea. Only one. But it wasn’t going very far. Then suddenly I had another idea, and I started to play with the two together and a basic plan began to form. The MESSAGE was ‘HOLY CRAP-LOOK HOW VALUABLE AN IDEA IS!!’ I proceeded, through a year of dappling, then 18 months of REALLY WRITING to think every idea I had was so valuable it had to be twisted into the story somehow because HECK, I was writing a BOOK!


It sure made for a painful editing/streamlining process. Not that I put in any ideas that didn’t GO, but there wasn’t room for all of them. Still… each one hurt to give up… it was well thought out, had been developed, and I’d gotten attached to it.

The fallacy though, was thinking THAT was the only place for them. You see, I’m not a writer of A BOOK. I’m a writer of BOOKS.

I have finally seen the light, that a great character that has to be cut can be used in some other story. A plot twist that was too cumbersome for one story might round out another quite nicely.

This is really liberating!

So when somebody tells you to kill your darlings, just stick out your tongue and say you’re just going to put them down for a nap. They may never get up again—it’s entirely dependent on whether the troll makes it past the dragon… or something like that… but at least you can be content that you aren’t a murderer… (unless you’re only saving them to kill them yourselves…)


Leanne said...

*snort* I love your take on things, Tami, I really do. :-)

(PS from the terminal smartarse: "dapple" is, like, a spotted pony; "dabble" is, y'know, trying stuff out. And stuff. ;-) )

Watery Tart said...

Oh no no... my fan fiction was dappling... (very spotty business that was)... that was the meaning I meant...

Galen Kindley--Author said...

I gotta admit, as painfully simple and obvious as your solution is, I never consider it. Now that you've raised it, it's...elegant. What a great idea. Characters and ideas needn't be confined to live or die in one story. They, can move HP-like, from picture-to-picture. Great point.

Best Wishes Galen.
Imagineering Fiction Blog

Jan Morrison said...

yep - I have an idea slush pile on my computer - a big one! And for each book I have a 'deleted scenes' file. Sometimes, no often, it is stuff I NEED to discover as I'm writing the first draft but nothing anyone else needs to know. I just have to be sure when I do this not to refer to it in the next drafts!

Watery Tart said...

Jan, I'm not at all surprised you already figured this out! I have a ton of back story with Confluence I will never need, but plot devices and characters--totally reusable!

Galen, thank you! I like that word... elegant. Makes me feel smart! teehee And nice HP reference! (though i suppose with the Draught of Living Death I asked for it)

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I love it! They ARE taking naps--and so are little bits of funny dialogue, etc. Who knows when we might need them? We have *many* of books ahead of us!

Mystery Writing is Murder

Rayna M. Iyer said...

Love your take on things, Tami. Yes, it does make a lot more sense to put things in storage than to kill them off completely.

There's an Award I couldn't have passed onto anyone else waiting for you on my blog.

Watery Tart said...

Elizabeth-I'd think with Mystery, where you have suspects, witnesses and the like, this might be especially useful! Glad you like the idea!

Natasha, thank you so much! (and yes, we twin pacifist prefer to avoid murder where possible)

Patricia Stoltey said...

It's a lot less painful to file an idea or a character away than to send it to the shredder, that's for sure.