Log in

No account? Create an account
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2008-03-28 06:09
Subject: [process] On the killing of darlings, and shooting a good idea in the head
Security: Public
Location:DIA terminal A
Music:the moving walkway warning people to watch their step
Tags:books, green, process, writing
Nearing the end of the run on Green. I'll have it in to casacarona and arcaedia Monday (possibly Monday night), and off to a few other readers.

Having just hammered 30,000 words out of the manuscript, I can say yet again that killing your darlings is hard sport. I did a tight line edit (and will do one more tight read before it goes in). I cut a bunch of things which I won't miss...passive voice constructions, unnecessary scenes, some dream sequences that added little, some minor characters. I also cut a bunch of things that I really liked a lot. Some of them might have been important, but I have a word count goal driven by contract, which is turn is driven by my publisher's business needs.

I don't get deeply emotional about my prose, mostly — in all fairness I'll note that klingonguy might differ about that statement. Generally it's true. I'm also perfectly clear on the fact that some tight, hard cutting can only benefit any manuscript, be it a flash piece or a multivolume epic. Yet weirdly, in places I now feel like my 160,000 word manuscript is a little too direct and economical. Novels digresss, it's what they do, so they story can breathe like a fine wine, mellow and acquire nuance on the reader's palate. You want a fast shot glass full of prose, read short fiction.

Also, I am reluctantly concluding that my Cunning Plan to add 5-10K of additional material isn't needful. Back when I was in the middle of the first draft I was quite worried about the sustainability of single-threaded first person narrative at this length. I'd contemplated inserting extratextual material — creation myths, scholarly bits, excursions and digressions beyond the scope of Green's tight first person POV. Now I look at it and think, this works. Don't interrupt the reader.

Heck, at the moment Green doesn't even have chapters. I rather expect it will by the time it becomes an actual book, but I like it this way. I think it works.

Thinking it works is my writing mind's way of telling my forebrain I'm about ready to turn the damned book in. There will still be an editorial cycle (co-incident with a reader feedback cycle), followed by copy-editing, so I've still got room to rethink this stuff. But as I've said many times, I write from deep beneath the surface. When the dark ocean of my psyche burps out a message, I really do try to listen to it.

So, no intertextual inserts, and nearly to handing it in.
Post A Comment | 6 Comments | | Flag | Link

User: makoiyi
Date: 2008-03-28 13:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I've found though that when I've beta read someone's novel, and then the book comes out with half of it gone, I am really miffed. Yes, I understand that if a contract says so and so one has to obey. I also understand that very often, cutting lots out benefits a novel, because we pare it back to bring out the 'best' bits. But sometimes I wonder at it. At what gets lost on the floor. I enjoy, clear, sharp prose as much as the next person but sometimes these 'fast' reads leave me in such a whirl, I'm thinking - okay, where's the rest of it. Just like a movie, in its way, that edits to the point of leaving customers going - no plot. Novels *are* different, There should be time to get to know folk and follow them through their adventures. This, oh, it's got to be so and so length or it won't fit on the shelf in walmart floors me. Or, no one's got the patience to read more than... The easy one to cite there is LOTRs, both the movies and the novels. I dunno, if it's a Damned Good Book, it doesn't matter how long it is. It does matter how short it is because I end up annoyed.
Reply | Thread | Link

User: manmela
Date: 2008-03-28 14:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm learning that mastering writing is a bit like becoming a ninja. Not only does it need focus and dedication but and attention to craft and its 'mysticism'.

I've learned the best stories are where you remove ego from the equation, where it truly becomes about the story and not about the author. That's hard to do (at least for me at this fledgling stage) because it's sometimes difficult to tell the two apart. But killing your darlings to serve the story at the expense of ego is a good thing. Certain authorial flourishes might be clever but if they don't serve the story, I'm learning they have to be assassinated by my inner writer-ninja

NOTE: I'm not implying anything about Jay here. If anything he demonstrates to me that my new "writer zen" matches his process, and that's encouraging.
Reply | Thread | Link

User: pauljessup
Date: 2008-03-28 15:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I hope you can leave it without chapters- some chapterless novels are absolutely brilliant.
Reply | Thread | Link

User: kmckiernan
Date: 2008-03-28 18:33 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
In my mind, trying to maintain balance between telling the story that must be told and the business of writing is a bit like walking an ever-thinning tightrope where some dude (or dudette), waaayyy out in the distance, is stooped over, gripping the rope, and shaking it like mad. The little umbrella I'm using to keep my balance only goes so far. It's not the Mary Poppins version, after all.

In the ever changing landscapes that influence our writing (see Jim Van Pelt's post on this) it's often difficult to take that step back and view our darlings with enough objectivity to know what can be sacrificed for the good of the whole under the restrictions of the contract. That's why readers are so critical to the process. They can be that voice for me. They can help me determine what is critical and must be kept vs. what is okay to cut.
Reply | Thread | Link

User: ktempest
Date: 2008-03-29 22:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I approve of the removal of creation myths. Many writers don't know what they're doing when they make them and it's best to leave them alone!
Reply | Thread | Link

Lawrence M. Schoen
User: klingonguy
Date: 2008-03-31 11:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
don't get deeply emotional about my prose, mostly — in all fairness I'll note that klingonguy might differ about that statement.

Yeah, maybe. But you were in transition, and so I give you all kinds of patent-pending slack-cutting pills.
Reply | Thread | Link

my journal
January 2014
2012 appearances