Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Grab a Machete

And slaughter your darlings.

Rewriting my novel has taught me one valuable lesson: sometimes something we write just doesn't work. And when that happens, you must be prepared to take a knife (or delete button) to your novel.

Now I admit that I wasn't totally careless in my revisions. I saved my novel under a different name and made changes to the new file while retaining the old one. Still, I was prepared to take drastic measures. The gist of what happened remained the same up until I got to the end. That's when the blood poured.

Often, I doubted myself and wondered if such a drastic change was necessary, but I decided it was. Hours of work were wiped away, never to be seen again (not even in a new sparkly way). And really, it was my own reservations that convinced me I was doing the right thing. I had reservations for all the wrong reasons. I'd created a really cool group of people who I was excited about introducing in the novel, but they weren't pertinent to Nathadria's story; they were just cool. And if I'd kept their scenes, I'd have to push back a pivotal decision in Nathadria's life, risking the reader's tolerance of her. So, I cut it all out. Nathadria needed to shine, not those other guys.

Something I've noticed over the years is that new writers are rarely willing to slaughter their darlings. Instead of sticking to the story, they become tangled up in "cool stuff" that is pretty and interesting, but not pivotal. I don't know if I'll ever be able to fully introduce that particular group of people. If Aurumenas is published and the publisher wants a sequel, then yes they will be, but I don't plan on writing a sequel otherwise. I'm prepared to let this particular idea stay in my head and never reach paper if that's the way it needs to be.

Do you have what it takes to cut your darlings? If an agent asked you to take out whole chapters because he thought the story would be better, would you?

~Emily White


  1. Yes I would. After all, no matter how much we are in love with our writing, if it means cutting a chapter, or never being published, I think we all know what we'd choose! :o)

  2. If it would serve to make the story better, I would perform the needed...surgery.
    There could be blood, there would certainly be pain, but again, if it makes the story better, yeah.
    Also, let's hope that I get to the point where a professional editor or agent is giving me advice about my book.;)

  3. If my agent could show me why the chapter was unnecessary and I could see the point and how the novel would be that much better without the chapter, then yes.

  4. LOL. I've deleted 3-4 scenes (one was a chapter) out of my novel. I realized with two of them, they weren't essential after I did major rewrites. Or maybe I just couldn't be bothered to rewrite them so there was more conflict. ;)


Yay! Comments! Oh, how I do love them! :D