Killing your darlings: on why cutting words doesn’t hurt (that much)

Photo: The bible-length book I wrote that will be much shorter when I'm done with my red pen.Don’t mind the random fruit loop sitting on the booster seat chair. I have a two-year-old. Enough said. The focus is the manuscript sitting in print form on my kitchen table. Epic proportions it may be, seeing it like that filled me with a sense of accomplishment. No more computer screen. This is real. And then I quietly freaked out inside realizing how much editing still needed to be done before I could get where I’ve been heading all this time.

Stephen King has a quote: “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric scribbler’s little heart, kill your darlings.” I’d say in terms of words, I’ve been doing pretty well at cutting since I laid this out on the table. A friend’s words recently reassured me: “None of that matters though, when you can throw your book down on the kitchen table like that and it makes the floor shake, you did good enough.”

I did good enough. But now I need to do better. So gone are the first 25 pages, the first words I ever wrote when the story first came alive. Gone are pages in the middle, chopping away at 200k words as if it were someone else’s words going into the trash. Although there have been twinges, passages I delicately caressed before hitting control X– delete would be too harsh so I keep those words in another file–I have found that it hasn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. Hours, days, weeks and years toiled away on the keyboard, and with one stroke those words are gone.

I guess, in the end, making it the best story it can be outweighs the pang of loss. And when the day comes I see it in published form, those years of words that will never see the light of day won’t bother me in the least. Because they were stepping stones and bridges to a story that moved beyond them. They served a purpose, and I can be content knowing that.


Self publishing v. traditional: Which is the right direction?

Self-publishing funnyRemember when I had that whole rant about e-books versus print books and how I want to publish traditionally and be in print? Well I still love print. I am indeed, a print loyalist. But that hasn’t stopped me from partaking of both mediums lately. Mostly, I buy print. But authors will often send me e-copies of their books for me to review on Cellar Door Lit Rants & Reviews. So what’s a girl to do? I also have purchased several e-books when a print edition hasn’t been available.

Of late, I’m also confused as to which direction I want to take the publishing of my book. I’m currently beginning the editing process of my rough draft. This is a momentous occasion for any author, but especially for one who has been working on said book for seven years. That’s the better half of a decade! But it’s not as if I worked diligently every night. I would get stuck and stop for months at a time in the earlier years, hung up on some detail, waging a war with my own imagination.

Only in the last couple of years did I finally figure it out. Funny how even I didn’t know how it was going to all pan out until much later. And when the battle of my ideas was finally won, I got serious about finishing the story and realizing my dream of being an author. In the last year,  I also realized this book is more than just one, it’s three, with a spin-off series cooking in my brain.

So now I’m finally finished with the first draft, but with plenty of editing ahead of me. And now I’m thinking, should I start looking for agents soon? But what about self-publishing? From what I’ve read it can actually be more lucrative than going with a big publisher since Amazon takes such a small cut. It’s also faster — you mean I could virtually write my book, format it and make a cover and have it out within a matter of weeks? Hells yeah! After seven years I hardly have the patience left to wait how many more months it would take to get an agent, shop it around and then, and only if I got picked up, deal with another round of editing. It sounds arduous and long and I just want to happily tweet about my new book that’s on Amazon today.

But that other part of me, the one who says why not try traditional first and if it doesn’t pan out self-publish, sits in the back of my mind chanting its magic spell. She says be patient, what’s one more year after seven? Well, eight or nine actually.

I feel informed, I’ve read the literature and I think I understand the pros and cons.  But while I still struggle with the decision, I think I will be searching for an agent at the end of all of this and we’ll see where this journey continues to take me. I have nothing but respect for those who have self-published and have had even modest success. My hat goes off to you. It’s a world thick with authors trying to rise to the top and self-publishing has given a voice to those stories that may never have made the light of day. I can attest that many  I have read have been great reads. I’m thankful  because I know no matter what, my story will live one way or another. And that’s a comfort that didn’t exist seven years ago when the sprig of this story first blossomed from my imagination.