“In writing, you must kill your darlings”, and whether it was William Faulkner or Stephan King who said it, they are both ultimately right.
Version #2 of my outline is complete – two solid days of ruthlessly cutting out chapters and restructuring the plot. And realizing that there may still be holes in my plot. Sigh. However, I hope that I have reorganized the plot in a way that is more action driven.
I also started to edit my first chapter, this included deleting many of my favorite passages because, well, they were nothing but back-story. Never mind, that they were beautifully written sentences, if I do say so myself, but ultimately they did not move the action forward. Rather, they stopped the action and chronologically took the reader to a point prior to where the characters were currently standing. Nothing like confusing the reader by jumping around in the sequence of a story.
A few days ago this quote from Advice to Writers popped up in my Twitter feed.
You don’t always have to go so far as to murder your darlings—those turns of phrase or images of which you felt extra proud when they appeared on the page – but go back and look at them with a very beady eye. Almost always it turns out that they’d be better dead. (Not every little twinge of satisfaction is suspect—it’s the ones which amount to a sort of smug glee you must watch out for.)
Isn’t it strange how the universe can bombard you with signs when you are uncomfortably slaying you beautiful darlings? Alright fine, my Tuesday critique wasn’t exactly a subtle sign from the universe but rather a hammer to the head that I needed to fix something within the story structure.
So in deference to the Twitterverse and the nasty critique, I am looking at my darlings in the eye and slashing them out if they are just sitting on the page looking pretty and not moving the story forward.
I am beginning to understand that the art of revision is more about coldly staring your story down and paring it to the essentials. Every sentence must purposefully push your story along, whether it be through dialogue or prose. Even when the characters face an obstacle it must ultimately force them into a higher awareness which they will then ACT ON.
And then sometimes when you are revising you take some rather odd turns.
Yesterday, my newly crafted outline was critiqued. Sort of. Something in what I submitted caused a rather strange light-bulb to go off in my teachers head, and he spent my allotted time telling me about this fantastic plot line that he had conceived from his living room floor as he rolled his back over a tennis ball. He turned my main character into a manipulative lying spy, inserted several double crosses and rendered 2 of my main supporting characters redundant.
Ummm, this is not the story I am writing at all! Guess it just goes to show that at the end of the day when you take a class, you should be open minded enough to take the good suggestions but stubborn enough to sit there silently thinking NO WAY!
Trust your story. Only you can tell it.