Thursday, April 12, 2018

K = Killing Your Faves Might Be Necessary

Welcome, A to Z bloggers, visitors, and of course all my faithful regular readers! This year's theme for my A to Z:
Short & Sweet Reasons Why You Need an Editor

So without further ado . . .

Killing your favorites isn't a new concept. Stephen King advises authors to "kill your darlings," using a phrase written in 1916 by author Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (the original was "murder your darlings") and modified by William Faulkner ("in writing, you must kill all your darlings").

Killing doesn't happen in every book. Not in the murderous sense, anyway. But there are times—murder or not—when it's best to get rid of a particular character for the betterment of the story. This might mean outright death, if it fits the plot, or it might mean that a character just goes away. Completely, as in "this book has never, does not currently, and will never contain a character named Joe Smith."

It's hard to chop ruthlessly if we've become attached, but a good developmental editor with a fresh eye can see what's clogging up the works. The editor who advises that a darling gets the ax is often only confirming what the writer already knows, deep down.

Allow an editor to help you make the tough decisions.

13 comments:

  1. Kill your darlings... is so interesting. Yes, as a writer you may get attached to certain characters but you need to see from the reader's perspective.
    I think its not only characters that need to be killed but also some words and sentences or meaningless metaphors or superfluous adjectives.

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    1. Exactly, Shilpa. It's not only characters who need to go sometimes. When I'm editing, I tend to do a word count if I notice a particular word or phrase pop up often enough to catch my eye. After that, it's almost like that same word will slam me each time I see it. Adjectives are sometimes the worst, as I see a lot of authors overexplaining . . . almost as if they're afraid we'll forget the described person/object if they don't include every descriptor every time.

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  2. Years ago I encountered this concept as "kill your children." It referred more to deleting scenes from a movie or a story than it did to characters. Deleting anything can be difficult. "I can't cut that out! I put so much effort into writing it. I'll make it work."

    One of the hardest things for some writers to do is let an editor... well... edit. One of the first rules I learned was that no one's words are sacred, not even mine.

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    1. I know nobody will believe me, but it's sometimes just as hard for an editor to cut something that's written well when it's not adding to the story. We make our notations and then bite our lips, hoping for a good reaction from the author.

      I have had my ever-faithful S.K. tell me that entire sections need to go on my posts, and sometimes it's just because that portion sidetracks from the main point (which I'm great at, because . . . Italian). Other times, she recommends that I save a section for a separate post because it can be fleshed out on its own. Sadly, sometimes things just need to be cut and that's that. I can't imagine dealing with a whole book's worth of "get rid of this," but I do admire the authors who don't cling too tightly and who try to maintain an objective eye.

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  3. In my blog posts, I digress and go off on tangents so often that I personally wouldn't delete those sections because it's actually part of my writing style. When writing fiction, or some commercial job where my goal is to write something for someone in their voice, that indulgence wouldn't be appropriate, of course.

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    1. I think blog posts should be their own kind of animal, and it's not because I blog and couldn't come up with a whole novel to save my life. I just thing they're so much more conversational, and that lends itself to tangents and diversions of all kinds.

      I love your posts. I always feel like you're telling me some cool stuff you've learned while we have coffee together.

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    2. Wow, thanks. You hit the nail on the head when you describe blogs as being "conversational." That's exactly how I write, so people will respond by saying, "Gee, you write just like you talk!" Which is my goal.

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    3. Blogs need personality. I think you and I do that well. Not that people know our deepest, darkest secrets, but they know a little bit about what entertains us, frustrates us, or makes us smile.

      Speaking of smiling, I caught my typo in the comment above ("thing" instead of "think") and I was picturing you biting your lip to not say anything because you'd already pointed one out in my post a few days ago, and this was in a comment, but it still counted, but it was bugging you, but you were holding back, but . . . but . . . lol. I confess, yer Honor.

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    4. Well, I usually let typos or misspellings in someone's comments pass, since we can't just go back and fix them. But I'll often write a second comment when I make a goof and say something like "Obviously, I meant 'from' and not 'form.' "

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  4. However necessary, this is super hard for me! :)

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    1. I can't imagine it's easy for anyone! Knowing it's necessary, at least, is a good start. Thanks for the visit!

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  5. The best, yet most difficult, advice to follow. I have a new beta reader -- she's quite excellent -- who found a crutch word I didn't even realise I was using. Sigh. Now I have to go and cut a few things...

    Ronel visiting from the A-Z Challenge. Latest post at Ronel the Mythmaker

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    1. Sounds like you have a great beta reader, even though you now have a tough assignment. I have crutch words I catch myself using all the time. Thanks for the visit!

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