Saturday, September 8, 2012

Moving It Forward

This post could be a companion piece to my earlier post about Killing Your Darlings.  Since I just addressed this issue in a teeth-gnashingly way, I thought there may be value in it on a post.

I wrote a completely brilliant chapter.  The words were neat and concise, the feeling perfectly conveyed by the language, and the chapter seemed to flow beautifully, like a fast-moving river.  There was just one problem.  It was pith.  Pretty pith, but pith nonetheless.

That lovely chapter that made me swoon with delight every time I read it, just didn't move the story forward.  It didn't advance my main character forward in her journey, it failed to reveal anything that wasn't already evident in the manuscript, and it simply had no rhyme nor reason for being there.  It had to go.  But, I didn't make it easy.

I wailed over it, edited it, tried to shove relevant facts and notions into it, all to no avail.  As brilliant as the chapter may have been, it did nothing for the story.  So, I highlighted it in preparation to delete the entire thing.  And then didn't delete it.  Mind you, it remained highlighted through dinner, bedtimes, and the beginning of The Tonight Show before I touched the "enter" button.  But, I finally did.  It was painful.  However, reading the story through again without that chapter, I saw that it worked.  It didn't have that inexplicable "speed-bump" feeling I got (which I would not admit to myself) when the chapter was in place before.

I was so mad at myself for not seeing the problem earlier, I clicked open an unfinished horror short story and pounded on it for a half hour, wrapping it up in a very pleasing manner.

You may think I conquered the problem and I could leave it here, letting you believe just that.  But, you know how hard it is to kill your own darlings.  So, I removed that chapter and pasted it into a new Word document.  I'm saving it.  You never know when it might be the perfect fit for something.   It really is lovely.  (I know, I know, I'm sure there is a twelve-step program for this, but until I am ready to admit the addiction, I hope to never be cured!)


  1. I have written 10,000 words to a story that I'm going to have to kill. The story is good, but it's just not working the way I have it. So I'm totally redoing it with one minor (well major) plot change and chugging along. Killing that 10,000 words is HARD. But it has to be done. And there are so many awesome quotes from it.

  2. I like to think that sometimes a novel or a story has a natural conclusion, even if it's one I don't entirely favour. I just completed the edit on a novel to be self-pubbed this month, and the ending is a consequence of how the plot lines flow. The epilogue can lift the story too.

  3. Omg, I've done this so many times! Good for you though, it's hard to edit something that you love. Great post!

  4. I'm struggling through a chapter right now trying to get it to work. Part of the problem it's in the heroes POV and I hate writing that.