Writing

Destroy Your Darlings

Here I am, poking my head out of the hole I’ve been working in for the past three months.  It feels strange, really, almost nerve-wracking to be writing here again.  Did I really used to do this every week or two?

The past three months have been a blur – a blending of days that transformed Saturdays into productive fiestas and Tuesdays into sleep-all-day marathons.   I read a lot.  Watched too much television.  Worked out every day.  And wrote.  Wrote a lot.

After some really helpful feedback from potential agents (read: polite but hopeful rejections), one thread emerged.  The story sounded good, but the book was way, way, way, way, way, (wait for it), way too long.  So I’ve been destroying darlings for the past few months in between sessions of drafting my next novel.

It’s a tough experience, but also an interesting one, too.  Flowery prose that I thought made the book great got the axe, extraneous scenes balled up and no-look-passed into the trash, unnecessary exchanges deleted.  I saved a version of my old draft in case I need to flesh any parts out again, but for now I have a leaner, meaner, tighter, mightier draft.  A story that really rockets you along.  And all the while I’ve done my best to hold onto those little details that really do make the book feel real and special.

My original polished draft was 179,000 words, a bit of a literary thriller with a lot of feeling.  The new draft is 142,000 words, still long, but now firmly in the normal range, a mystery/thriller that will hopefully make you stay up all night reading it in a single sitting.

Hey – it wasn’t so bad posting on here again, was it?  I’ll be back next week.

Hope you’re all staying as happy and healthy as you can.  Let me know about your experiences/thoughts on cutting a book’s length down this drastically.

Have you done it?  How’d it feel?  Was the end product a lot better than the one you started with?

6 comments on “Destroy Your Darlings

  1. mymindlessdrivel

    He lives!!!!! Bravo on the hatchet job. It’s hard to cut out things/people you love, but sometimes best for the whole. Good luck with round 2 of query letters.

  2. It’s hard, but leaner and meaner is always better. People have short attention spans 🙂

  3. I had a similar experience, taking my fantasy novel from 120,000+ words to 90,000. It was painful, but I can already tell that the story is stronger!

    • Such a big cut, so hard! But yes I know those flowery sentences are better in a different saved folder somewhere haha!!

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