Sacrificing My Darlings: A New Adventure

Posted: June 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

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Three am this morning I wake to the sound of the baby crying.  No big deal.  I pull back the covers and shiver my way down the hallway, locate baby, shove dummy in zombie crawl back to bed.  “Problem solved,” I whisper. “Back to sleep.”  No such luck and it’s not the baby’s fault either.

As I lay in bed I start to think of the draft I put aside moments before heading to bed last night.  I’ve just finished my third pass though the manuscript.  I had made a lot of changes, cutting this passage, extending another, adding more active language and deleting anything passive.  I’ve been ensuring that there is plot consistency, character consistency and a strong sense of setting.  No drama.  I was even starting to think that my manuscript might be showing the first hint of a sparkle.  Then, I opened the latest (freshly edited and reviewed) version of the MS and start to read.  First came the head shaking, closely followed by the red pen (okay it was blue but only because that was the only one available).  What is wrong with my first chapter?  I’ve followed my checklist to the letter but still it is.  . . how shall I put it . . . lacklustre?  By this time I’ve had enough so I pop myself off to bed, only to be woken at three am by the baby.

But this is not about the baby, who as an aside appears to be teething again and ended up in my bed less than an hour later.  No, this is about the other thing that kept me up.  My other baby.  I toss and turn wondering what I can do to make this better.  It’s then that my inner voice quietly nudges me, whispering, “Scrap it.”

“What?” I answer back.

“I said, scrap it.  You don’t need it.  It adds nothing to the story.”

“But oh it does.  It sets the scene, it introduces the protagonist it . . .”

“Does it?”

“Does it?”

“Go on sacrifice it.  Kill your darlings.  I dare you.”

“Okay, I will.  But only if you let me sleep.  Agreed?”

I’d like to say I had a blissful sleep after this.  Only I didn’t.   As I mentioned earlier the baby came in to bed with us soon after and, from here on, she decided to practice her dance moves, kicking me in the backside intermittently.  However I did fall asleep only to wake at seven with a headache and the terrible feeling that this was all a dream.

After I get the children off to school this morning I sit down and start to imagine what the story would be like without the first chapter.  I conclude that ditching it is the appropriate course of action.  Its then that I realize the following:

1)    I shouldn’t kid myself, sacrificing my darlings is a tough gig.  I’m emotionally invested in every chapter, paragraph, sentence and sometimes even individual words.

2)    I should trust my inner ramblings, incoherent as they may seem, especially those that appear in the middle of the night.

3)    I need to stop thinking about the long term goal of this project (getting published) and focus on what I can do to make the manuscript the best I can from where I am at the moment.

4)   The pursuit of perfection is like the quest for the Holy Grail.  The only solution is to do your best, seek feedback from people you trust and be prepared for a hard slog.

5) Editing and revision is a lot like childbirth.  It bloody hurts but the fruits of your hard work are worth it.

6)    I need to hope and pray that in doing the above that the rest will take care of itself.

So, that said I’m off to do some work on the fourth pass of my manuscript and this time around I plan to get very friendly with my delete button. . . I think.

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