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Murdering my darlings and more

Last week I got fantastic feedback from a semi-new friend. We met via Twitter in December and discovered we had similar writing taste as well as a lot of other things in common. Then we met randomly in person when we discovered we had a connection through my job. So when I finished my latest draft of The Loyalty Factor and needed a fresh set of eyes for it, I immediately thought of her.

What a great decision–Laura’s feedback is both spot-on and sympathetic. Some of the issues she noticed in my writing are issues she has been dealing with herself. Not only that, but one of them is an issue that gave me fits back in the summer during my novel rewrite, and another is an issue I had my doubts about but had stubbornly ignored.

Good critique partners are more precious than gold, no question about that.

You’re waiting for the but, aren’t you? Of course there’s a but.

Laura’s feedback was awesome, BUT–

–I have to murder my darlings.

One of the subplots, as written, was really weak in this draft. Back when I had a 250,000-word manuscript, the subplot factored more heavily and had a better resolution. When it came time to get the novel down to a publishable length, something had to give. Except I just loved the two minor characters around whom that subplot revolved, so…I kept them in the novel.

Laura delivered some tough love in the form of issuing an ultimatum: break the novel into two books, or cut the subplot entirely.

I went with Option B, and I think it’s the right one. I’m already getting excited about telling that story more fully in a separate book, and I’ll get to explore an entire subculture that only recently quit being elves (and consequently became more more interesting).  And I’m excited about some of the extra world-building I’ll have room for as a result of taking that subplot out.

On the other hand, it’s been somewhat excruciating for me even as it’s been rejuvenating for the story. I know the story will be told someday, but there are a couple of scenes I’m having to overhaul without these characters in them. (Just a couple, which tells me how badly the subplot had suffered in this draft.) And there are a few great moments between the characters that are just going to be gone forever, except to appear as little deleted scenes here on my blog.

And hey, there’s an upside to all this–revising the novel some more means I’m not working on the query letter or synopsis! 😉


On Temptation

Today’s a snow day. We got 5 inches overnight, and I cancelled my plans for today, because the county doesn’t bother plowing our roads, so I’ll be lucky to make it to my doctor appointment tomorrow, let alone get out today. I spent the morning on sorting through old files and getting rid of papers I no longer need to keep. Now I have the whole afternoon and evening stretching out ahead of me.

I ought to be writing. I’ve been struggling with something I need to write before I can call my novel revision finished, because I need to know what happens in order for the characters to reflect on it during the novel. I’ve been progressing at a snail’s pace on this story, for some reason. It’s hard. And right now, my brain is in rebellion.

Here’s what I want to do: fire up Skyrim and see if I can finish restoring the Thieves Guild to its former glory. And maybe while I’m at it, I’ll make a couple more steps towards liberating Skyrim from the Empire. And if I happen to learn another shout or two along the way, awesome. But mainly I want to see what happens with the Guild.

And what I should do: fire up Word and see if I can make any progress with the tension between my characters and the events that brought them together five years before the novel takes place. Or, barring that, maybe I should look at one of the three scenes I need to write fresh for the novel.

But man, my head is aching, and Skyrim sounds so much more appealing…

I think of all the hard parts about being a writer, the self-discipline thing is the hardest.


I hope this entry still sounds coherent when my Benadryl wears off. I’ve been suffering a violent allergy attack all day, which for me involves a plethora of violent sneezes in addition to congestion and itchy eyes and nose. The rest of it I can deal with, but the sneezing isn’t helped by Benadryl. Oddly enough, sipping hot buttered rum does help the sneezing. I guess I shouldn’t complain. 😉

It blows my mind how often I use the word “that” in my writing. I know most of the “thats" people use are unnecessary, and I make an effort to cut them out…and yet, as I go back through the printout of my novel, I’m finding a lot of superfluous “thats".

I’m sure everyone’s method for editing is different. Personally I can’t do final edits on a computer screen. I have to print out that puppy and read through line by line. I’m marking out all kinds of unnecessary words, changing awkward phrasing, and slashing out whole sections of the novel that don’t need to be there.

Good thing, since I’m currently at 158K and fantasy novels need to be closer to 120K or so…

I’m actually not too worried. I’ve pinpointed some places where I can cut scenes out or incorporate elements of the scene into another place. Despite being a die-hard plotter, I need to get everything on paper before I know where, exactly, the story got bloated.

I’m enjoying it. I know a lot of people don’t like this stage, but I do. Right now I’m through 167 pages out of 375, and I’ve only been at this a week. I feel it’s going pretty well.

Now if I could just stop sneezing my head off.

Restart and Reboot Yourself

Prompt: Take a line from a song that you love or connect with. Now forget the song, and turn that line into the title or inspiration for your post.

The song in question is U2’s “Unknown Caller”–a song from their No Line On The Horizon album, which constantly amazes me with its depth and emotion, not to mention awesome music. I think one of the reasons this song so strongly resonates with me is this concept: “restart and reboot yourself.”

Hasn’t everyone felt, at some point in life, that a reboot is needed? I know I have. And for me, I feel like 2012 was that year. 2012 was the year I started an “issue” blog (separate from my personal blogging), got a job that uses my BA in History/Creative Writing for the first time in my life, turned 36 (which one of my Facebook friends pointed out is 6-squared, which is all kinds of awesome), and revised a good portion of the novel closest to my heart–the one I’m going to spend 2013 trying to get published.

“Restart and reboot yourself–you’re free to go.”

Yes, that’s the appeal of a reboot–freedom. A fresh start. Something new. Going back to the essence of yourself, without all the junk that gets installed and downloaded and virused up over the course of daily living. Run a health check. Delete those unused programs and habits that are just clogging up the system. 

“Shout for joy if you get the chance.”

Go on, do it right now. Close your eyes and give a big old whoop of happiness. “WOOHOO!” Ignore the people in the cubicles around you or sitting nearby at the coffee shop. Forget that you’re on the commuter train with standing room only. Don’t worry about whether the dog is going to think you’ve gone insane. Just smile and make a joyful noise.

Done? Did you notice how it makes you feel? You can’t make a joyful noise without smiling. You can’t smile–genuinely smile–without it making you feel better. I’m sitting on my bed as I type this, my two cats chasing each other. I’m not unhappy, the word I would use is probably content, but I’m also not feeling particularly joyful. Until I shout.

Isn’t it crazy? Making a joyful noise makes you feel joyful. Letting out a few loud woohoos has lifted my mood from content into something that feels energized and empowered and ready to create something.

I feel like I’ve restarted. Rebooted.

I feel free.

Stymied by the climax

According to my novel outline, I’m 9 scenes away from finishing the novel revision. And I’m stuck at the scene that takes place right before the major showdown. I have to get Character C and Villain A to a certain physical location and set the scene for the showdown to come… And I can’t seem to find the right entry point to this scene. Character C is at the end of his rope, heartsick at what’s been demanded of him throughout the novel, and terrified of what he’s going to have to do next. And for whatever reason, I absolutely cannot find the right tone for him in this scene.

I’m going to make another attempt at the scene tonight. I spent last night setting up a new Windows 8 laptop and playing with Skype for the first time ever. (Skype scared me. It still sort of scares me, but I think I’ll get used to it.) It just occurred to me that I’ve set the computer up with almost all my necessary software–except Skyrim–without using a single disc. Technology blows my mind.

And I managed to get Christmas cards and presents in the mail today. This is an accomplishment, since last year my Christmas presents got mailed…sometime in the summer? Yeah.

So time to knuckle down and get to writing.

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