#TuesdayTips Harden Your Heart and Kill Your Darlings (Part Two)
Aside from a few oddballs, most writers will tell you that editing that first draft is one of the hardest - and least enjoyable - parts of writing a novel.
“Kill your darlings” is a widely shared piece of advice handed down from experienced writers to novices. Don’t be too wedded to story elements; each part of your book has to earn its place, or it needs to go.
In the last blog post, I suggested a few things that you might consider when identifying these darlings. Carry on reading for more ideas.
Nobody cares! OK, this is going to sound harsh, but you really have to decide how much of those pages of research into a really fascinating subject are necessary to tell the story. There are no rules for this but consider the impact on the story's pace and what sort of book you are trying to write. Information dumps are rarely a good idea (although one incredibly popular thriller writer has managed this). But remember, it's impossible to please everyone - I get reviews telling me how fascinating the science that I include in my books is, and others saying they skipped over it.
Does the story work without it? I crafted a lovely idea for a sub-plot with a nice red herring. But there were already some diversions written into the story, and this one took up space. There was nothing wrong with it, but with 15,000 words needing to be cut it had to go.
Does it add necessary extra detail? I write a series with ongoing characters. These characters grow over time and I am conscious of the fact that many of my regular readers are, in part, popping back to see how Warren and the team are getting on in life. Because of that, I often find myself imagining their interactions; we learn about them as people and I enjoy writing those scenes. But how necessary are these passages? Do they negatively impact the pace (in which case maybe they could be moved, rather than deleted), do they add anything meaningful or are they just a bit self-indulgent?
Is it worthy of its space? Similar to the points above, there may be good reasons to include passages in your book that would be out of place in someone else’s story. I enjoy writing humour and like to slip in some banter or even the occasional daft situation, but my books are not comedies. A two-page setup for a brilliant gag would not be an appropriate use of space in one of my novels. On the other hand, readers of the Discworld series read them for that very reason. Similarly, early Tom Clancy novels are filled with pages of detailed trivia about weaponry and military hardware that his fans love, but which others may not. So consider your audience, and be prepared to kill those darlings!
Thanks for reading and come back next week for more suggestions on how to kill those darlings, or browse the archives for more tips. Please feel free to comment either here or on social media. Paul