Before you get alarmed and click away from this post, when I say “kill your darlings” I don’t mean your family members – James and Buster are both alive and kicking. I’m talking about ruthlessly editing your work to ensure the most polished product is published.
Stephen King is the master and kill your darlings is his most famous craft advice. But what does it mean? Some folks advocate finding your favourite sentence in your manuscript and deleting it, but you don’t have to do that to prove you could if it was warranted.
How to kill your darlings
Word count. No matter what genre you write in, there is an acceptable word count for submission. Books over 100,000 words cost more to print, so it’s unlikely a debut author with a super long book will be signed. When you need to adhere to a word count, every single word must count and it makes editing easier because you ask, “does this scene really need to be here? Does it truly further the plot?”
Hire a professional. If you’ve self-edited your work but still feel married to every word, it’s time to call in the professionals. I’ll be getting edits on Sweet Redemption back from my publisher tomorrow and I’m sure it will be an eye opening experience. I’m both excited and terrified. Sometimes it takes an objective third party to show you the light, but if you don’t have the funds to hire someone (or a publishing footing the bill), use your tribe.
Delete it even if it’s good. Sometimes scenes that don’t make the cut are composed of really good writing. It feels tragic that no one is going to read the gold you’ve drafted, but you might be able to re-purpose it for another book. I have a Word document filled with content I’ve had to delete but hope to include somewhere. That’s right. Kill your darlings.
Sweet Redemption isn’t the first book I ever wrote. Back when I lost my dad, I finished Ties that Bind. The heroine loses her dad (shocking, right?) and I was too close to edit it. I didn’t want to delete backstory or remove sections that were close to my heart. This book remained on my hard drive for years.
I’ve recently revisited Ties that Bind and I’ve cut over 110,000 words. That’s right, I’ve deleted a whole book from my book. I considered making it into a series, but it was always intended to be a standalone and it doesn’t work as multiple books. Some parts stung to delete, but I’m focused on applying everything I’ve learned and making it publishable.
I had an epiphany yesterday and realized I could delete even more. The first chapter needs to hook the reader or they will direct their attention to the millions of other books available. I’m targeting about 85,000 words and I feel it’s manageable!
Do you prefer reading series or standalone novels? I write each book in my trilogies as standalone books. No one likes feeling like critical information was missed if they accidentally pick up book two.
Also, it happens to be Valentine’s Day! Do you celebrate? James and I don’t, but cheers to everyone who does 🙂 I posted an image in my Instagram story just for you!
To see bonus pictures of our boxer, Buster, and get a sneak peek into my life with James, head over to Instagram. Don’t forget to follow our hashtag #authoropwrites, turn our post notifications on, and show us some love with a like or follow! You can also join my street team through a private Facebook group with direct access to me (and exclusive content)! This is where my readers become my friends.
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