Friday, January 30, 2009

Killing Your Darlings...

I just spent an entire 7 days participating in Book in a Week. Now the premise is to sit your butt down in the chair, get your hands on the keyboard and type away madly – BIC HOK TAM. My writing group (SRW) uses BIAW as a January exercise to focus on writing, get back into the swing of things after the rush of holidays. A way to make writing a priority in your life and hopefully have the momentum to continue the challenge, the energy, the camaraderie, and the output.


No, this year I chose to edit/revise. I took time off work, rolled up the sleeves (OK, I put on long johns and wool socks to combat the cold basement office), focused on making my manuscript sharper, and got to work. BIC HOK KYD (butt in chair, hands on keyboard, kill your darlings). And I had help.

Muse raised her head from the notes she was taking. Her voice quivered as she asked, "What are you doing? I thought we were opening a new document this week?"
"No, sorry. We need to trim some fat." I double clicked on Microsoft Word.
She straightened her shoulders, her full attention on the laptop screen. "Fat? What fat? Oh, don’t tell me you’re revising Lady Bells?"
Evil Editor (from this point on to be known as EE) materialized on my other shoulder. He rubbed his hands together. "Oh, good. There’s lots of fat there to trim."
"I beg your pardon?"
"You heard me."
"You and Janet have already had your way with my masterpiece. There’s nothing left to edit out." Muse sniffled.
"We took out all those adverbs and adjectives, pure fluff if you ask me."
"I’m didn’t and they’re not fluff. They describe things. They paint a picture for the reader." Tears pooled in her eyes.
"Yeah, the reader isn’t stupid."
Indignation halted Muse’s liquid sadness. "I never said the reader was stupid."
"Which is exactly why all those over-the-top dialogue tags had to go, too."
Her arms crossed over her chest, her eyes narrowed. "Said is a very boring word."
"Stop it, both of you. I’m trying to work."
Silence descended, but it was short lived.
"She’s done a good job tightening up the point of view."
"Why thank you, EE." I kept typing.
Muse harrumphed and turned away. EE stared hard at the screen, short chortles of glee erupting whenever I hit the delete key.
Hours later, Muse, tired of pouting, spun around to see what we were fiddling with. She shouted in my ear, "Oh, my, God! You’re cutting the entire scene?"
"Why do we need to keep it?" EE faced Muse.
"It’s a heart to heart with her father. They discuss her very bad habit of eavesdropping. They discuss her fear of intimacy. They discuss her anxiety of leaving home and moving to a place she knows nothing about."
"Blah, blah, blah!"
I highlighted the entire scene and hit the delete key. Muse gagged. EE danced a happy dance on my shoulder. I moved to the next section that needed cut.
"NO!" Muse held her hands over her heart. "You are not going to delete that."
EE stopped dancing long enough to check the screen. "Finally. I begged for the wedding scene to get cut 5 edits ago. It’s too long, too descriptive, too much in his head."
"But it shows longing, and describes her dress, and foreshadows how much they will love each other later." Big teardrops ran unchecked down Muse’s cheeks.
"And that part, too. Kill it. Kill it."
"I can’t believe you’re doing this, that you’re listening to him. My words, my beautiful, beautiful words."

And that was Day 1! I can’t say by the end of the week that my muse and evil editor were getting along any better. Some days I found myself siding with EE, ruthlessly cutting and tightening. Other days, Muse and I had some bonding moments and we worked together to combine scenes to make the story better. To move the plot forward! Because that is what ‘Killing Your Darlings’ is all about. And throughout the bloody mess, I believe the three of us have created more believable, angst-ridden characters. Their goals, motivations, and conflicts are clearer and that makes the black moment that much more sweet ("In a really sinister, heart wrenching way," Muse adds).

No questions today, but feel free to comment on editing, BIAW, or what you plan on working on over the weekend.



Captain Hook said...

I love your play-by-play of Day 1! Know exactly how you feel in reverse. Every time I revise (refuse to use that nasty 4-letter word that starts with e), I have to add description.

My original manuscripts are so bare bones that, upon revision, they usually gain 10-20k.

Karen said...

Hi Janet, very clever post. I'm the opposite. I'm usually pretty light on the descriptive details. My wip is going to have to do some serious carbo loading.

Janet said...

Welcome to the Prairies, Captain Hook! And EE and Muse appreciate your kind words.

I write long - even my blog posts end up being long. I'm not sure if having to add description would be any easier, I'm thinking not. I wish you luck with any "revisions" you may be doing and hope to see you here again.

Janet said...

Morning, Karen. You and Captain Hook are in the same boat (ow, sorry about that). As soon as I read your post I thought of spaghetti, and donuts, and bread with butter, and baked potatoes. Hmmm, I'm hungry now.

Good luck with the Anti-Atkins Diet! I'm off to eat something.


Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Janet - I loved your post! Obviously, you've had lots of experience dealing with your 2... uh...aides. LOL

I'm like Karen. Although I don't like revising, I have a tendency to write fast and furious. I want to get the story out of my head and onto the paper. I think that's why I do so well with NaNoWriMo and BIAW. Then after, I add the descriptive details and take time to think of clever similes and alliterations, etc. Or, maybe not so much clever as in the character's unique POV.

And, speaking of Karen and clever brings me back to the cleverness of your post. Bravo!

Suse said...

Hi Janet,

What an entertaining post! I love the dialogue between EE and Muse, although at times you must get dizzy. You're way ahead of me in the editing department. I have only edited one of my books - it was a daunting task.

More reason for me to keep writing short. I usually reread what I've written the day before to bring me up to speed, but I also try to add missing details too.

When I'm finished a piece, then I move paragraphs around, delete what I don't think belongs, and generally make the writing tighter.

As for this weekend, the only writing I will do will be my blog. Otherwise I've got a messy home to clean - BIAW and the pedometer challenge didn't give me much time to keep things neat (that's my story and I'm sticking to it).

Janet said...

Hey Anita! My aides - I love that! And I'm afraid I have way too much experience with them. They're constant companions.

I, too, write fast and furious - problem is I write everything. Getting out of bed, dressing, breakfast, hobbies, lunch, other relationships, internal musings, jokes in my character's POV that have no bearing on the actual story, supper (is there a food theme going on here?), games played after the meal, bedtime, dreams... Well, you get the picture - all of it. So, cutting is a must-do activity.

Thanks for your kind words. I almost didn't post this - what I find witty and creative may not resonate with others. I'm glad you liked it.


Janet said...

Suse - sometimes I think I'm editing this thing way too much. Then I go through and do what it was I planned and I fall in love with the story all over again. I have, however, promised myself this will be the last edit (unless an agent or publisher makes suggestions, then I'm all over that!).

How's the pedometer challenge going? Or are you finished? I hear you about the house cleaning - I'm still trying to get caught up on laundry. Good luck with the blogpost and the cleaning.


Suse said...

Hey Janet,

Isn't it great when you reread a story you've written, and you fall in love with the characters again? I hope when you do, that you tell yourself, "Damn, I wrote a good story."

My pedometer challenge will be over tomorrow. I have lost a couple of pounds since Christmas, so it's been worth it.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Janet,
I'm a little worried about you. You know what they say about people who hear voices in their heads. They could be psychotic... or writers.

I have a love/hate relationship with editing, sort of the same way I feel about exercise. I know it's good for me and I'll feel better when it's over, but I hate doing it.

I'm doing some editing too. I want to do a good job on these edits, but a new story is calling my name lately and I'd dearly like to answer that call. I'm also going to work on a couple of blog posts this weekend. Housework? Never heard of it.


Janet said...

Way to go, Suse!

Hey, Jana - yeah, insane or brilliant (I'm going with the brilliant option!).

And we should talk this weekend about your edits - I'll e-mail. Good luck with the blogposts.


Chiron said...

I laughed about the editing struggle between EE and Muse.

When I first wrote stories, I thought every word was so precious. I mean... my goddess, the sheer magic of my prose left me breathless. *snort*

Now I take a machete to those passages and hack away. Out damn adverb (she says cuttingly). *grin*

Great post, Janet!!