Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Lop of their heads!

Welcome to May, everybody! I'm extra happy this month, as it happens to be my birthday, which means I get to splurge a little.

Our awesome Sharon Johnston came up with the idea of "Killing your Darlings" for our May theme (don't you just love themes? In fact, you may (boom boom) have noticed a theme throughout our blog this year!). Yes, that was corny, but I really couldn't help myself.

There are a lot of ways to kill your darlings (it could be sentences, scenes, paragraphs, characters, dialogue, etc.). However, I'm going to talk about ones people rarely talk about. *Whispers dramatically* *long pause* Books. Yes, you heard me. Books. Sometimes you just have to cut that darling free. Hold on, let me explain. I mean this in two ways. Let me ease you into this by offering you the abstract version:

1) At some point or another, you're going to have to stop editing, polishing, tweaking, and adjusting that baby bird book of yours and cut the apron string - let it fly out into the agent slush pile, or out on submission, or out to your CPs. I know it's hard. You want your darling to stay your darling forever. But what if someone hurts it? Doesn't like it? Says my characters are flat? Gasp - hate it?! Well, thems the breaks. I'm not being harsh here. It burns like hell. However, there are benefits. Feedback will help you improve. You'll learn about subjectivity. You'll gain a new perspective. But, you'll also learn that, well, you can't please everyone, and you can't be perfect. And people will have read your book. That's the point of becoming a published author, right? So, as hard as it is, kill that darling string of yours, and let your baby book go.

Okay, that wasn't so bad, now was it? Good. Glad we're on the same page. This bit, though, is going to be tougher:

2) Sometimes you're going to actually have to kill your book. I mean it's got to go. Your book might be written in the wrong tense - give it up and start again, darling. It might be the wrong character POV. That's right - kill the POV and choose another one. It might be the wrong story. WHAT? The wrong story? But I wanted to write that story! Hey, calm down. No one's arguing with you there. What I'm saying is that your story may have went off track. What you wanted to write might have gotten muddled up, your vision changed, your characters went off fact, any number of things could have derailed your story. That means you have to kill that darling story and start from scratch. Painful, I know, but a good writer always does what's best for their vision, and if that means starting again, then that's what you've got to do.

There you go. That's killing your darling. Ah, wait, one more thing. Don't shoot me, but sometimes a book just doesn't work for publishing. It might be a saturated market, the book might not just have a wide enough appeal, it might be too niche of a market, it might not fit comfortably on the book shelves. There are a lot of reasons a book might not get published. I'm afraid that at some point, you might have to kill one of your books. I have a few dead ones myself. That doesn't mean I don't love them. It doesn't mean they weren't worthy. It just means that right now, you need to work on something fresh. Make sure you're moving forward, being objective, and remember...this is a business, as well as an art.

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