Have You Killed Your Darlings Today?

editing your work

 

editing your workI once posted on my twitter feed, “I’m killing my darlings.” Most-likely, non-writers were horrified. Those writers that follow me probably smiled. I was, of course, editing my work.

We all have to do this evil thing, which is really quite beautiful and necessary in the writing process. We would take our readers directly out of our carefully crafted story world if we put in a flowery phrase for no other reason than because we are proud to have put those words in that order.

“Aren’t I just adorable?”

Here is where your problems start. If you find yourself rereading a passage you wrote…just because; kill it. Murder it. Delete it. If you must, take it out of your work and put it by your bedside so you can look at it. Don’t show it to anyone else and don’t, I repeat, do not put it in another work. When you leave your darlings in, the ones that just sit there on the page and smile at you saying to themselves, “Aren’t I just adorable?”, those little darlings will ruin your work.

 

This is part of the writing process. A very large part of it.

 

Don’t Leave Your Readers Time to Breath

Writing is about conflict. Without conflict, in your story’s situation, between characters in the story world or conflict within a character, there would be no great books.

Gillian Flynn, the author of the bestseller, Gone Girl, has taken conflict and strewn it throughout every aspect of this story world. You can’t find many sentences without conflict somewhere. That’s what makes it so great, and horrifying.

Rolling Stones¹ magazine did an interview with her which you can read online. (See link below.)

If you’ve read the book, you know that feeling of wanting the world to stop so you can read until the book is done. If there were any of Flynn’s darlings in there, it would have given you pause to sleep and go on with your tomorrow. All of her darlings were murdered.

Every Murder Needs a Detective

A clarification on the exact meaning of the phrase and who said it: Slate²as a great article about the movie Kill Your Darlings. The term means that as writers, we must take our favorite passages in our work out if they don’t further the story progression. It has been used, improperly, to refer to killing or creating conflict for your protagonist.

It has also been attributed to all manner of writers: Faulkner, Chekov, Ginsberg, Hemingway, Welty, Wilde. Just name your author. Steven King repeated it in his great craft book and autobiography: Steven King, On Writing. The true source of this oft-repeated phrase is Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, who lectured at Cambridge in the early 20th c. And whose lecture, which you may find at Bartleby³, is one best combed through with diligence. His original quote was, “Murder your darlings.” We’ve heard all manner of iterations but now Slate² and, more importantly, I have attributed the phrase correctly to the source.

Bookmark Bartleby with the URL address below. Yes, I am partial to Sir Quiller-Couch’s name, as you might imagine, but the lecture is above reproach and handily useful to any writer.

Lest you think that he eschewed all manner of writing, listen to him on the subject of, what we term, the living language:

“Literature must needs take account of all manner of writers, audiences, moods, occasions; I hold it a sin against the light to put up a warning against any word that comes to us in the fair way of use and wont (as ‘wire,’ for instance, for a telegram), even as surely as we should warn off hybrids or deliberately pedantic impostors, such as ‘antibody’ and ‘picture-drome’; and that, generally, it is better to err on the side of liberty than on the side of the censor: since by the manumitting of new words we infuse new blood into a tongue of which (or we have learnt nothing from Shakespeare’s audacity) our first pride should be that it is flexible, alive, capable of responding to new demands of man’s untiring quest after knowledge and experience.”

 

 

I hope you are deftly killing your darlings and staying true to the storyline in each line of your writing.

Please comment and share if you found this useful in your writing process. Sign up for my newsletter as I’m in the process of working on five series and two ebooks. These products are compiled after years of research to aid in your writing, productivity and the difficult task of marketing; made easier, I believe in the material to be presented. I have also been working on several series for the Quill on the writing process. This will take you from first draft through critiques and onto publication and marketing. I have an e-book on marketing your book filled with more resources than imaginable. Further series will follow the first post on The Prolific Writer, which includes writing pitfalls and their hacks with productivity and brain tips backed by science. Sign up now to get all of this information delivered to your fingertips. And no worries about your email as I never share emails with any person or organization. I will be discussing content creation and living our lives, the two are not mutually exclusive and in fact, should be paired together. Blogging tips from my years of experience and geeking out as well as the communities I have learned from will also be part of your diet to aid you in your efforts at online writing as well putting pen to paper, which is the point of the quill.

Happy writing!

Sources:

1. http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/features/gone-girl-author-gillian-flynn-i-killed-my-darlings-20141003

2. Slate, Kill Your Darlings

3. http://www.bartleby.com/190/

Writing on the Brain: The Writer’s Read

writing on the brain

writing on the brain the writers readBrain function and the writing process are my passion and my life’s work.

I have studied the brain for years. I researched head injuries and the effects of neurotransmitters in arthritis, not knowing, as I kept my head down in the research building plugging in neurotransmitter formulas to aid in an answer, that I would be contracting R.A. and Lupus s.l.e. in my thirties. Life is ironic.

But finding this amazing infographic from Apple Copywriting (a site you must visit), was like coming home. The occipital, parietal and frontal lobes and their workings are infused into my memory. Broca’s and Wernick’s areas are my areas of study; like old friends.

In the Wayback Machine, here is a story on conquering procrastination that I wrote some time ago. The research I cited and the tools provided seemed to help many writers. Hopefully, you can find some benefit to apply to your writing.

This, kids, is why we must use evocative words for all of the senses. It’s why Jesus spoke to us in parables. These stories have been with us for over two thousand years. We are Wired for Story, as Lisa Cron, the author of this great craft book has famously said. I will share with you soon the mapping software I use to highlight the areas I need to hit more and the processes I make habit in order to add content to my story that comes up in the course of the day. I am always writing, even if not actively. The fleeting thoughts that tie the plot points together or help make that secondary character come to life in one sentence, that’s the writing life. That is what I live for, and I’m sure you feel the same way.

I do all of this so I don’t forget. So my story will be memorable.

In fact, Margo Fritz, writing from Cornell happily recounts “the first time [she] realized how beautifully science and creative writing can merge”.

Stranger than fiction

In Block 3 I took Stranger than Fiction: Creative Non-Fiction Writing About the Sciences. It was taught by Sandra Beasley, a visiting professor and author of a memoir and cultural history of food allergies called “Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl,” as well as two collections of poetry.

This was the first time I realized how beautifully science and creative writing can merge.

Some tools of the trade.

To help in that area, I head to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. You can see within the link that I was working on an evocative analogy for the time needed for reflection and the growth leading to a freer and more beautiful existence. The process I was looking for is in the link and is now one of my favorite words.

There are quizzes and brain training games that you can play to keep your mind sharp. For instance, if I am feeling too sluggish at the beginning of a writing session, I will play one of these games to drill down to the core of my brain and get the ‘plasticity going’ as I phrase it and the neurons firing.

Some of these tools require a paid membership and lose many of their best features after the trial period. And how much extra cash do writers have on their persons? Um hmm. Unless you are born into or married a duke or duchess than it is the free tools that are left.  Frankly, my imagination and the free thesaurus are enough to get words, phrases and even whole sentences on the page. I’m sure you can do much better.

What tools do you use to aid in your writing life?

To complement any reading you have finished this perfect reading day, here are some wonderful articles to help you along in your writing path.

Hints of Elain e’s in The Writing Room

Collection Highlights at the Library of Congress

Free Samples of The New York Times’ Top Ten Books of the Year

Did you catch Angela Clarke’s One Minute Critique

Jane Friedman and Orna Ross discuss how to make money from your writing

Lifehack has an immense collection of articles on the Writing Life that we lead:

How Writing Things Down Can Change Your Life

Ten Simple Rules for Good Writing This isn’t just the usual list. We “know” these, but we need to be reminded of them every  once in a while.

And this one is stellar: 20 Free Resources to Create a Simple Ebook

I use a lot of these already, but it is wonderful to have all of them tied up in a neat little bow. ;p

This one fits my research and writing life if you’ve ever wondered How Does Writing Affect Us?

NPR has the Best Books of 2013

Stephen King famously and wisely said,

[tweetthis]If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time to write. Simple as that.-Steven King [/tweetthis]

Among the forty writing books I have, I prize my copy of Stephen King’s On Writing. However, there is a quote I came across on Goodreads from Mr. King’s Different Seasons that is one of the most poignant thoughts I have come across, and I’d like to share it with you. You, as a writer, will understand this.

“The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them — words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.”

Lynne Neary–back at NPR–discusses how all writers rework their favorite  stories.

Do you find you agree with her?

 

 

An Intro to Procrastination, Neuroscience and Writer’s Block

procrastination, neuroscience, writer's block

what time is it

I wanted to update this post with new Pomodoro* apps that have come out. I’ve been collecting a list and then Zapier came out with this great list.

[tweetthis]What do tomatoes have to do with your writing word count? Find out here http://bit.ly/1igQYMN[/tweetthis]

We will be discussing writer’s block, procrastination and the science behind them…later on…

But first…

There is a movement just starting in the writing sphere of the blogosphere; writers are pushing away from the confines of immediate social media constraints to concentrate on, you guessed it, writing. See ‘s  goodbye post at Writer Unboxed and the comments that follow as well as Chuck Sambuchino’s Letter at Guide to Literary Agents.¹(additional links in footnote)

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