I’m so glad you decided to come back.
How was last week?
Did you separate the amoebic tendrils of your technological parasites long enough to remember how to write, free-style? Did you get hand cramps? Keep it up, before you know it, you’ll be cleaning and jerking 7,000 words a week, vocabularian veins popping out all over the place.
For this week we’re going to zoom ahead to the future; to the cumulation of all your writing efforts and the massive chunk of story sitting in front of you. All of those beautiful words you’ve poured into a pile are just waiting for the dexterous hand of a good story teller.
Your rough draft is like a thousand pound hunk of stone. If you want to get all “Americana” on it, you could even say its akin to a 100 pound ‘pat’ of butter. Yeah, let’s go with butter.
The rough material has potential. Your story has energy and power. But if you were to send in a stick of butter to the Iowa State Fair judging committee, they’d probably to one of three things: write you a scathing review for wasting their time; send it back and write a scathing review for wasting their time; or batter it, deep fat fry it, and send their thanks for the mid-morning snack.
Your book, your words, your ideas deserve better. If you loved it enough to write it, then love it enough to shape it into the best it can be. And by that I mean…learn to edit your work properly. This week’s true secret to finishing your damn book is something you won’t hear from a lot of writers and here it is:
Being a great writer is 20% writing. and 267% editing. Shut up, I’m not good a public math. Seriously though, when you get your ass in that chair and throw all the good and bad down, and your mind learns to work in the space and time you give it to create, you can really accumulate a massive amount in a short period of time. But the art of writing, the finesse, the je ne sais quoi, if you will, lies in the ability to edit that beautiful mess into a story that captivates.
Que voulez-vous dire?
How does this magic happen, you might ask? If you’ve been around in the writing game for any amount of time, you’ve had the old adage banged into your skull over and over “Kill your darlings, Kill your darlings…” Yes…yes Maestro Faulkner, whatever you ask!
What does that really mean? Well–*le sigh*–it means you as a dreamer, a wordsmith, a lover of story and character…you, creator…must become a destroyer. A hard, eagle-eyed machine; disconnected from the rapport you’ve built over the years with your characters. You must let go of the personal angst, pain, and joy you’ve brought into the world enough to see its true potential. You have to take that beautiful hunk of marble (or butter) and break the rough and useless parts away to reveal the true work of art beneath.
Oh, Mon Dieu! (which literally translates to OMD—OMD Becky, regarde ses derrière!)
The practice of “Killing your Darlings” is meant to make you understand that editing is hard. That letting go of the phrases and pieces of your novel that you love, when they are distractions to the story and its flow, can be the best thing you do. Cut. Cut deep. Cut the subconscious catch phrases and passivity. Give your readers a stronger character by making them the center of the action; by putting the reader in their shoes. Stop telling us everything. Cull the useless, the distracting, the stuffy, the monologues and head hopping. Give us the moonlight glinting off of window panes.
Take that lump and make it into something where details pull double-duty and every word counts. Line by line, strike out that which does not serve purpose or cause emotion to rise in the chest. Because even the most indescript lump of butter can turn into something quite magnificent when given the time and attention it deserves.
Next week…after all of you hoodlums have taken a hard look at your work and gutted it to buttery perfection, we’ll take a look at what you can do next to get that silky minx out into the world.
Until then, keep writing. Drop me a line. Tell me how you’re doing.
Does anyone really want a giant baguette right now?