Cutting Babies and Killing Darlings

As I mentioned on Monday, I’m busy editing The Heir’s Choice, which is the second book in my epic fantasy series. (BTW, I also put out a call for beta readers, so if you need a new crit partner and like reading Fantasy, I’m your lady. Click here for more information.)

Right now, though, I’m in the home stretch of my big edits. Stuff like characterization and plot order should be fixed by the time I’m done.

I’m pretty much at the point where I should be winding down my edits. Because usually, my ends are just fine. So are the latter halves of my middles, for that matter.

But not yesterday. Yesterday, I realized that I’d written a chapter in an illogical sequence. As in, something INCREDIBLY important happened, and my main character proceeded to do nothing about it until hours later. Which wasn’t a big problem in itself. Except that rearranging the chapter’s scenes to make more sense meant that I’d have to cut one of my favorite scenes.

Man. That was hard. All I wanted to do was keep things as they are and get to the last bit of the book. (I only have about 50 pages left.) The temptation was real, though. See, out of the six people I’d sent the book to, only one picked up on the error. I guess I’m just that good at dragging readers into my story. *Wink*

And truth is, I follow Stephen King’s advice on crit partner opinion. I have more than four CPs. I give them the work in the exact same stage of edits. And if half or less of them say something needs to change, don’t change it.

Which meant that just based on my own editing methods, I should have let that little illogical moment stay right where it was.

But I couldn’t. See, I do have an overall picture of what I want to happen and where, and why. But to me, presenting the strongest book possible for my paying readers is the most important thing to focus on when editing. And that moment, that one small moment, weakened an entire section.

So I picked up my scalpel and cut into that chapter without mercy until everything was arranged in a way that made sense. It hurt in the beginning. Especially when I had to rip out the scene I loved. But then something happened. I wrote in a scene that was even better. One that actually does a lot more to progress the story-line.

Needless to say, this makes me a happy writer, and made me think I should share this story.

Because cutting into our stories hurt, but more often than not, it’s worthwhile. Cutting out weaknesses gives us space to replace them with something stronger, and if done right, the story is always better for it.

Anyone else find the bright side to killing their darlings? Do tell me about it!

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34 thoughts on “Cutting Babies and Killing Darlings

  1. If you thought something was wrong, then it was probably best to change it, even if only one person noticed it.

    Even if I have to cut something, I just put it to the side just in case. I cut a paragraph that I loved from my MS because it just didn't fit with how I rearranged things. I'm still holding onto it in the hopes I can fit it back in somewhere.

  2. You should check out the posts this week on the blog Project Mayhem. There's one with a writer who had to tear down his entire novel just to get it right. No matter how hard it is doing what is best for the story has to be your first priority.

  3. I was reading my book aloud to someone recently and in the second chapter I realized I had a logic error (created by an edit cut I'd done before). The error was in the story when it went out to my beta readers and not one of them caught it. But as soon as I saw it, I had to fix it. Even thought it meant re-writing the whole scene. And I really liked that scene.

  4. Ohhhh… it's SO HARD… so hard to kill those darlings!!! But good job, Misha. GOOD. JOB. It's a hard thing to look at the story as a whole and cut what isn't necessary… but you know it'll be stronger for it… 🙂

  5. Yep, in the end you're responsible for what's put out there. If you can see the flaw, even if the beta readers haven't, then something's got to be done, even if it means alterations that cut a scene that might be pretty darn neat. Keep pressing on!

  6. Oh, I feel you. I had a panic attack after learning I should make a major change (killing a darling I had with a character). After the shaking stopped, I went at it. It caused a ripple effect through my other stories, but I think it's better because of it.

    When you're read to send out the beta copies, you can send one to loni(at)lonitownsend(dot)com. I will finish it by Oct 31, unless that's too late, then I can probably finish it quicker. Let me know what you need. I'm accommodating. 🙂 I have a 25K novella I'm still looking for betas for, if you're interested. It's fantasy/humor.

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