Thursday, April 7, 2011

No killed little darlings, just stored away

Aaron Polson wrote on his blog yesterday about killing your darlings, not being afraid to take things out of your story that just aren't working. It can be hard to do. You struggle with a phrase and finally nail it. A certain paragraph is just so perfectly written. But they don't work in the story. They don't add anything of advance anything. They've got to go. You have to kill your darlings. Except you don't.

They may not work in that story, but they could work in others. That's why I don't kill mine. I shove them into a very crowded box on my computer and store them there until I can use them again. Several times I've been writing something. I get to a certain point and realize that I've already written something that would work perfectly in that spot. So I go to the box, dig around, and boom. No effort wasted. No darlings killed no effort wasted. Now those bits of writing may never leave the box. And, from time to time, I do go through the box and delete the stuff that is truly bad or just won't work anywhere. But I like that I have them to pull from. To use again if I want to.+

I have an idea for a superhero story that has been with me for a couple of years. It's a big story. It'll be one of those doorstop novels. Multiple generations. A family history as circus performers. I love the idea, but it'll be a tough write. I know because I've tried to start it multiple times. All of my attempts have either flamed out or just crawled to a stop. But I've got all of them. There are some good bits in each, and once I actually start writing the thing I want to make sure that I have every one of the attempts to draw from.

So, by all means, pull stuff from a story if it's not working. Being objective enough about a story and to be able to tell when something's not working is tough. Be glad it's a skill you develop(ed). It's a necessary one. But, kill your darlings? No, at least not for me. Just cram them away into a tiny box so you can pull them out later and dust them off.

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