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A land forged from the fires of strife, blood of heroes, and touch of the gods.
Where deeds of great valor, vile evils, and blazing passions intertwine
to shape the course of elven and human history within.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Kill your Darlings

Editing is the key to a successful and well-written story. Whether we, as writers, want to admit it or not, readers don't really want to trudge through all of our ramblings on any given subject. Stories should not meander, they should move with purpose to a conclusion. That isn't to say they shouldn't have quiet times, or a slower pace on occasion. But those points should be strategic, to allow the reader a chance to catch up, but still move the story ahead. There is nothing worse in literature than marking time; and all writers hate to accept this notion.
When I first started writing seriously I was loathe to strike a word from my prose; after all, it was MY story, and I could write it any way I wanted, right? Wrong. Gentle nudging from friends who read my work at last penetrated my thick skull and I began reluctantly to strike at first sentences, then phrases, then whole paragraphs. I've even been known to delete an entire scene, and it's made the story better every time.  In the end I found myself enjoying the process of tightening my stories to the point where, even after reading the thing a dozen times, I was flipping the pages to see how the next bit of editing read. It was exhilarating.
So now, when edit time comes around, I don't look at it as destroying my work, but molding it to the shape I really want. The drafts (usually three before I'm really in the "polish" mode) are the raw material I work with, and the finished work so much more satisfying.
My first two novels are right at 200,000 words; lengthy by most standards, but I have a lot of story to tell. My third novel, currently in final edit, will end up about 235,000, even longer. But that's been cut down from a weighty 260,000 word second draft that was, by my own admission now, horribly bloated. And like I said, I'm still looking for opportunities to trim it down.
So if you're a writer, don't be afraid to take the dreaded RED PEN to your masterwork; you'll be better for it, and so will your story.
I think it was Stephen King (a pretty successful writer-guy) who said "kill your darlings". Good advice from someone who's been there.

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