Tuesday, October 5, 2010

To Kill Or Not To Kill

We have liquid sunshine at last! That's rain, if you didn't know, and it's a big deal for the sage brush and rattle snakes around here. Not to mention the desert dwelling people. Having grown up in Oregon, I am drawn to falling water and love hearing it hit the pavement, bouncing like hot oil in a skillet.

I often file sounds and sensations away in my brain to use in future writing. In my trusty spiral notebook, I record experiences, impressions, interesting words, and human characteristics. Do you do this?

Of course, the big challenge is transferring these word-pictures from thought to paper. Sometimes, I try to communicate too much. That's when I have to ask myself, "Does the reader really need to know this?" Curse you, TMI writing.

In my salad days, I imagined that all good stuff must survive revision. Forget plot and story tension, if it sounded pretty, I'd leave it in! Sadly, this practice interfered with pacing and bogged down my readers. Those needless details didn't mean to them what they did to me.

I've since learned to kill my darlings, as Mr. King said in On Writing. Painful? (Acutely, since these are my darlings we're talking about.) Yet so necessary.

Now, if I love something, I'll copy it off before I cut it out. I store the snippets in a notebook where I can always read them~ even if no one else does. So many questions in this post, so little time. Here's one final inquiry: How do you decide what to keep and what to delete?

To kill or not to kill, that is the question . . .

27 comments:

  1. I kill. If more than one CP agrees on a point, and I feel in my gut it's right then I kill. I know it sounds cruel, but I copy and save them just in case. lol.

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  2. kill. As long as you're saving a copy of the darlings, then it's not really a true death. Besides, you can always add them back in.

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  3. I have someone read for me and then tell me the boring parts. Then I cut them out and put them in a little folder that reads: am not using...but really want to. =)

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  4. Hi Roxy! Being born in Sydney Australia, I can definately identify with your love of rain - being starved of it for hot summer months on end gives you a greater appreciation when it does rain.

    But, I think I'm in the "killing" camp, although I prefer to call it "culling" or even "tightening". At least I try to be - sometimes it can be really difficult when you've stumbled upon a really poetic turn of phrase!

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  5. Hello!!!!! Glad you have liquid sunshine there too like here!! Rain, rain, rain! All is now green!

    Anyway! I've been cutting like crazy with my current wip - from 130,000 down to 101,000!!! Revisions 1-3! I am now on my fourth. It's starts off painful but after a time, I'm cutting cutting cutting and pasting them in another document of course!! Run on sentences, too much description... die ye unnecessary words (sob!).

    Good luck with yours - sorry but it's kill, pussycat, kill! :-)

    Take care
    x

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  6. Kill 'em all! Oh wait...we're talking about words? Well, kill them too. :)

    I've yanked some of the bits I liked best out of stories before. Usually it makes them tighter. But nothing ever goes away, since I save early drafts as a matter of course.

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  7. Yay for rain!! Enjoy it while it lasts!

    On your question on what to kill and not to kill - I try to take out any extra "fluff" that I've added that doesn't really contribute that much to the overall story, however I've not necessarily mastered this art fully yet. :)

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  8. Killing our little darlings is so hard, but so necessary. The first draft of my last manuscript was 110,000 words. It's now under 70,000. Lot's of little darlings went bye-bye!

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  9. There was a scene I absolutely loved at the beginning of my WIP that I axed. It took us too far back in the plot.

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  10. I hear you. I've had to deal with overwriting tendencies. Like Susan, I had a first draft clock in at 102K that is now 63K--which means I nearly cut it in half.

    sometimes you have to explore the woods before you find the path. And it's so true that keeping a clippings file is so, so useful. Some descriptions are simply in the wrong place.

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  11. I think it's good to save copies for yourself. You never know when you might actually have a use for them.

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  12. Haha, kill. Definitely kill.

    One thing I try to keep in mind as I write is that I have to trust my reader. They're must smarter than I think.

    Jai

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  13. As soon as I am absolutely certain I have said everything I want to say, I throw it out and begin writing.

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  14. There's a process that continues and cutting is a big part. Choice of words?? Rain is great just not too much. Floods?

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  15. Reminds of the days long ago when I first started writing fiction, every other word was an florid adjective...

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  16. I say kill. I've never looked back.

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  17. In a few days I'm about to begin revisions with my agent . . . now I'm nervous!

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  18. If a scene/character doesn't add to the story or deepen the plot in some way, I grab the ax.

    We got lots of rain in the desert yesterday too! It's music to my ears. :-)

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  19. Roxy, you have an award at my blog!

    Jai

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  20. we could use a bit of rain, maybe next week said the weather man. I too keep things in my notebook and sometimes when I go through it they even make beautiful sence together.

    BTW-I'm here by way of Jai, who it looks like I may have followed over here.

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  21. Aha 'Murder Your Darlings' as F. Scott Fitzgerald said before him. I've been thinking of that phrase all day and then I come across your blog, spooky! LOL! Yes I am planning to do just that with one whole chapter/POV in my WIP. :O)

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  22. Kill, but save them in case you change your mind.

    I love rain.

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  23. My way of deciding what stays and what goes is exactly what you said -- "Does the reader really need to know this?" I put myself entirely in the reader's mind when I'm editing and try to see everything from their perspective.

    Hey - I gave your blog an award! Stop by my blog to "pick it up." ;)

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  24. In a writing class I took a few years back, my instructor told me that my opening scene was full of "purple prose." He definitely thought I should kill it all. I did cut most of it and it was hard. I thought it was "artistic" but he was right. It read so much better after the knife:)

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  25. King's On Writing is one of the best books ever!

    I left you an award on my blog. You can go there to receive it. :)

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  26. Yes, I do exactly as you described. Take it out if it is overkill, but cut it out and keep it just in case it is useful later.

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  27. The Moon
    shines
    on a cat

    Meow

    As a native Swede, I am particularly proud of my love poetry suite Sonnets for Katie.

    My Poems

    My wallpaper art Babes!

    Sexuality introduces Death to Being; and indeed Life simultaneously. This is the profound Myth of the Eden. The work of the Serpent. Bringing us out of "blessed" Standstill. So, in contrast to the mindless pietism of vulgar Christianity, my personal "Christo-Satanism" should be given serious thought by the Enlightened Few, the Pneumatics, the 1% Outlaws. The Light Bringer must be rehabilitated, beacause if not, the All of it simply doesn't make sense: true Catholicism is necessarily Meta Catholicism.

    My philosophy

    Poétudes

    Fremde Gedichte

    And: reciprocity: for mutual benefit, you will do me a favor promoting your own blog on mine!

    Yours,

    - Peter Ingestad, Sweden

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