That’s right, folks. I went there. Today we are going to talk about trimming the fat of your book or as we call it: Killing Your Darlings.
Why would we call it that? Simple.
It’s safe to say that your book is your baby. You have slaved over every word, every act, every character as you’ve crafted your tale. It’s a long and arduous process and it takes some sweat and tears to create a world out of nothing or to create fully-fleshed out characters. They are darling to you (see what I did there?). So the moment someone tells you a character doesn’t work or a certain scene lacks in pacing or perhaps an entire section just isn’t cutting it – You. Will. Get. Defensive. At first. I know I was.
For a debut novel – and ESPECIALLY if you want to break into traditional publishing – you have to be aware of keeping your story at a manageable length and keep that shit simple. That means only having characters who have an impact on the story now and not building up for a pay off later in a later book that may never come to fruition. As much as you may be attached to a certain character, if they bear no weight to the story…kill ’em. Slaughter ’em. Get rid of them.
It sounds easy and in retrospect – it is. I know what you’re thinking….what about George R. R. Martin or Robert Jordan with their series (Georgie has 24 POVs in A Song of Ice and Fire while Jordan’s Wheel of Time had 148)? Well, let’s be honest – you’re not them. They are/were (Jordan passed away in 2007) established authors who have paid their dues – so to speak. They did their debut novels and then established themselves as good investments to their publishing houses – which meant allowing them to eventually start breaking rules.
Until you’ve reached that point – play by the rules. Kill your darlings.
Even as an Indie Author, I have had to kill some darlings. In The God Queen, I follow the adventures of seven Volocio (gods) through two POVs: Rei and Bronx. In an earlier version, I had all seven POVs and in an even earlier version….I followed thirteen Volocio! Looking back, I don’t know what the hell I was thinking. I am glad I trimmed it down the way I did, seven is still a lot and I will probably regret this decision later, but until then, I am glad I made them work for this book. I mean, those other Volocio are technically still in the world, I didn’t entirely get rid of them but I decided to focus on the few who had the most interesting stories and personalities. The others may or may not make an appearance. Who knows?
You see, killing your darlings is not actually that terrible. There are some characters that I literally have killed off or simply gotten rid of because having them continue would have only added more complication to my story. The surviving ones have simply been placed on the back burner as more material to be used when the need arises. Who knows – maybe I can write stories about those characters later. Killing Your Darlings doesn’t mean you can never use all of those characters – they just may not be relevant to this particular story. But there will be other stories, I promise you.
What about you? Tell me about your darlings! Was there one that was a particular hard one to kill or were they all easy?
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