Saturday, 18 July 2009

Killing My Darlings

Continuation of previous post - see below if you haven't read it

The writers among you will have heard the term 'kill your darlings' (or 'murder your babies', or whatever) which means that at times you need to let go of words, phrases, sentences in which you take such pride because you crafted them so carefully that they have become objects of pure love. It's hard to let them go, in fact I never can, all mine are archived 'in case I need them one day'. But this kind of ruthless editing can be essential to enable you to show your story as clearly and evocatively as possible.

In the process of digesting feedback from the lovely Debi Alper and my eagle-eyed Dad, I realised that I needed to commit darlingicide. Yep - I'm killing the lot of them, letting go of the entire novel. (Well, archiving it, anyway.) I'm going to start all over again, writing the book I wanted to write in the first place but couldn't at the time, for various reasons, none of which still apply. The material will be the same, but instead of presenting it as fiction, I'll be presenting it as 'creative non-fiction', a memoir based on a particular part of my life and work.

It's been a difficult decision. I haven't written anything at all this week, apart from emails, mostly waily ones to Debi who has been enormously supportive. (In fact, if you ever want a critique, I'd recommend her without hesitation. She's written several novels, and does critiques for a well-regarded agency, but she also does them independently, really knows what she's talking about, puts in a lot of effort, knows the turf and is worth every penny. And, unlike going through an agency, you know who you're getting. Info here.)

The good news is that all the work I've put in on the novel over the last few years hasn't been wasted. All the writing skills I've learned can be put into practice in the new project, and I'll still be learning; I have so much still to learn. I don't think writing a good memoir is any easier than writing a good novel - in fact in some ways it's harder. I'll be drawing on support from my more experienced blogfriends, especially Pat who posted some timely and useful links on the subject only yesterday.

One thing I learned a long time ago is that nobody is a writer unless they actually write. I didn't enjoy last week much, not only because of the decision-related unproductivity but also because of various other minor hassles - my Paramour is overworked and stressed; several work and social plans are on hold pending possible cancellation; we were supposed to be going to our favourite festival this weekend, but it's been too wet (I would have gone anyway; he decided not to; we had a small argument; he was probably right). I did manage to re-read Sol Stein's excellent Solutions for Writers, which was useful, but I still woke up this morning feeling disappointed, fed-up, cross and miserable. Then I thought some thoughts and made some plans. If I write 1250 words a day for eight of the next nine days (Monday is too full of paid work to allow for writing) I'll have the first 10k under my belt before I go to France on the 27th.

I think I need to sort out one of those word counter thingies for my sidebar. If there's one there, you'll be able to see how I'm getting on. I'll be posting again soon, about my other new obsession, which I will not allow myself to play with each day until my 1250 words are in the bag.


Anonymous said...

Well done - I hate being a grown up sometimes. Can't wait to hear about the new project!

Karen said...

Wow, mass word murder!

That's a big undertaking starting again, but it sounds like you're doing the right thing. Great idea to have a word counter and deadline to get you on the right track, and lots of luck x

Debs said...

It's not easy killing our babies, but if it's the right thing to do, then you'll end up being far happier for it. Doesn't make it any easier though.

HelenMHunt said...

Brave decision. Well done you.

Queenie said...

Thanks, folks! Karen, 'mass word murder' made me laugh, that's rather what it felt like. Debs, thank you, that's a good way to look at it which I hadn't thought of and am now finding very helpful.

PI said...

The great thing is you have a positive aim - not just hanging in suspended animation at other's whims. No names no pack drill. And you are free to do whatever.
Anything I can do in any capacity you only have to say. I know you have lots of sounding boards - just bear it in mind.
I take some comfort from Sally Hinchcliffe telling me getting a an agent was often the most difficult part. Ho hum!
BTW I remember in my blog putting off for ages writing the part I hadn't wanted to think about for decades. When I did I found it cleansing.

womagwriter said...

Making the decision to start again is very brave and probably the hardest part of it! Good luck.

Queenie said...

Pat, thank you so much; that's really useful.
Womag, thank you too.
I'm finding everyone's support and validation enormously useful right now, it's much appreciated.

Debi said...

'writing the book I wanted to write in the first place' - that says it all!

I know it's hard to make the shift, but I also know that you know in your bones that it's the right thing to do.

It gave me huge pleasure to work on your MS with you. Thanks for trusting me with your words. I'm really looking forward to watching your next darling grow.

She's gonna be a cracker!

Queenie said...

Awww, Debi... big hugs!

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

As you already know, I think this is absolutely the right thing to do. And I see you've managed 3800 words already, which is about 2.5 days' worth, woohoo!