Murdering my darlings and more

Last week I got fantastic feedback from a semi-new friend. We met via Twitter in December and discovered we had similar writing taste as well as a lot of other things in common. Then we met randomly in person when we discovered we had a connection through my job. So when I finished my latest draft of The Loyalty Factor and needed a fresh set of eyes for it, I immediately thought of her.

What a great decision–Laura’s feedback is both spot-on and sympathetic. Some of the issues she noticed in my writing are issues she has been dealing with herself. Not only that, but one of them is an issue that gave me fits back in the summer during my novel rewrite, and another is an issue I had my doubts about but had stubbornly ignored.

Good critique partners are more precious than gold, no question about that.

You’re waiting for the but, aren’t you? Of course there’s a but.

Laura’s feedback was awesome, BUT–

–I have to murder my darlings.

One of the subplots, as written, was really weak in this draft. Back when I had a 250,000-word manuscript, the subplot factored more heavily and had a better resolution. When it came time to get the novel down to a publishable length, something had to give. Except I just loved the two minor characters around whom that subplot revolved, so…I kept them in the novel.

Laura delivered some tough love in the form of issuing an ultimatum: break the novel into two books, or cut the subplot entirely.

I went with Option B, and I think it’s the right one. I’m already getting excited about telling that story more fully in a separate book, and I’ll get to explore an entire subculture that only recently quit being elves (and consequently became more more interesting).  And I’m excited about some of the extra world-building I’ll have room for as a result of taking that subplot out.

On the other hand, it’s been somewhat excruciating for me even as it’s been rejuvenating for the story. I know the story will be told someday, but there are a couple of scenes I’m having to overhaul without these characters in them. (Just a couple, which tells me how badly the subplot had suffered in this draft.) And there are a few great moments between the characters that are just going to be gone forever, except to appear as little deleted scenes here on my blog.

And hey, there’s an upside to all this–revising the novel some more means I’m not working on the query letter or synopsis! ;)


  1. Pruning hurts, even when it’s right. I don’t know how writers used to do it before they had blogs and newsletters where they could promise themselves they would publish the surplus. ;-)

    But you’re right, any day spent plotting is way better than a day spent working on a synopsis. Synopsis is murdering not just the darlings, but the whole darned thing, distilling an entire breathing book into a flat little summary. So cold.

    • Maybe before blogs and newsletters they would read deleted scenes and snippets at book signings and lectures? :D

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