Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Murdering my darlings

Phew... the past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of activity, without a single word of new material written. So, at the weekend, I put all thoughts of marketing for Cat and the Dreamer on hold and got out my soon-to-be-submitted trilogy of novellas and read them as a whole, and - yay! - they worked. I held my breath, I got goosebumps, I wanted a character to do the opposite to what she was planning. I got caught up in my own stories!

Except for one. The second story in the collection was the first to be written - written eight years ago, to be exact. And as I was reading, I spotted a lot of changes that needed to be made. Even the first sentence, which I thought was spectacular when I first wrote it, now seems dated and cliched. And then, I saw it. I saw the worst piece of writing - a whole section that I'd shoehorned in, because I needed to get my character from C to D.

Out came my red pen, and... my darlings are gone - all 2000 of them. Murdered, slashed... gone :-(

Deleting words is not usually something I do. Not because they're all good, you understand. But because my work is usually shorter than I'm hoping and I spend a lot of time increasing the word count.


Currently there's nothing instead - just a big gaping hole in the plot. In this section, the MC has to lose her job,  introduce another character to the guy she likes, watch them flirt and then have an argument with him. It sounds easy enough, doesn't it? But the spectre of the old version is lingering. Even though I'm sitting down with a completely blank piece of paper, with my beautiful fountain pen poised, I'm struggling for inspiration.

So today's question is: have you ever needed to delete huge swathes of your work, and how did you fill the hole it left behind?

21 comments:

  1. Not usually because I write in a similar style - bare bones and in desperate need of more words to make a detailed and complete story!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a good system when it works, but leaves no leeway.

      Delete
  2. Cut 4000 words on last edit of Two Halves. Total cut from original was around 12000 if I remember correctly. Still, I was left with a novel of 98K words. I have the opposite problem from you. I write and write and write and then have to take the fluff out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm in awe over those numbers. To cut so much, and still have 98k left!

      Delete
  3. 'got out my soon-to-be-submitted trilogy of novellas and read them as a whole, and - yay! - they worked. I held my breath, I got goosebumps, I wanted a character to do the opposite to what she was planning. I got caught up in my own stories!'

    That sounds great!

    'But the spectre of the old version is lingering.'

    And linger it will ...

    'have you ever needed to delete huge swathes of your work, and how did you fill the hole it left behind?'

    I actually happen to be expert at this. First, you have to get used to the hole. Size it up. Get comfortable with the void. Something in you signaled what was there before had to go so it must be that something in you knows what it wants to fill it with. It takes time to get use to the absence of something that was there for a long time. Take too long too fill it and it takes on too great a significance. Fill it too fast, and you won't be happy with the slipshod replacement.

    My advice is sit with the void until it doesn't feel so scary. Then, slowly start to play. Don't let anyone sit on your shoulder, so to speak, not even you! If that makes sense. If you manage to lose yourself in the process, you're well on your way to new birth.

    And believe me, that can be really great.

    Good luck! And bravo on that bravado to excise in the first place! ;)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Also, that would be 'used to the absence'...

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm like you, normally trying to add to my word count. But, yeah, I've had to cut stuff that just wasn't working. (The entire ending of my last novella.) I'm sure you'll find the words to fill the gap!
    Good luck :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Endings can be really tough - it's so hard to make that decision though, isn't it?

      Delete
  6. Kinda. I had to turn a story in for my creative writing class, and then realized my computer ate my file and had to write it a~ll over again in the few hours before class. Twas awful, but I kept to that spectre as you so put it is what guided me. The plot was the same, but how it came about changed; word choices, activities, thoughts. The new version evolved from the old one, and I think came out better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wonder how your story would have been received if you'd handed in the original version. Must have been a huge shock when you realised, though!

      Delete
  7. I struggle to find more words for my novel efforts...so every word cut adds to the burden of creating newer ones.
    I will be reviewing your book on Friday or Saturday 24 or 25 will email you when posted.....sorry for the delay...had two other books received earlier from a blogging forum to review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A burden - that's how I feel about it. Not worried too much about the word count at this point, just focusing on getting the bridge from one section to the next reconnected... or I'll be re-writing the next part too :-(

      Re the review - I look forward to hearing what you think. Thanks!

      Delete
  8. I had to do this recently. It hurts! But the work is better for it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's exactly right, I'm doing it for the good of the story! But, yes, it does hurt :-(

      Delete
  9. It's never easy to cut out scenes or words--but you know what, we can always make more--and better ones at that. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! Although, so far, I haven't managed any...

      Delete
  10. I write too short, and still end up having to rip loads out. It hurts!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. At least we realise what's not working. Better that than to send out sub-standard work!

      Delete
  11. Hmmm yes it's happened with me before. When I had to rewrite Doorways. The way I solve a plot hole (of any nature)is as follows: 1) Acknowledge the problem 2) List what you need for the problem to be solved 3) Believe (correctly) that the perfect solution is already in your mind and just out of reach 4) wait for your mind to cough it up.

    ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's the waiting that I'm not so good at though. I just need that first sentence to start me off...

      Delete

Please comment - I love a good chat!