How Not To Write a Novel Part 2: Don’t Hug Your Darlings

Words, I love you. Words, I hug you. Words, I write you in great proliferation and venerate you as you fill the blank spaces of my world.

Therein lies the rub. I’ve forgotten where the delete button lies. Sometimes in the midst of 200 and odd pages, editing becomes a terrifying prospect. My first novel – an urban fantasy young adult anti-Tweelight – has been languishing in the pit of editing hell. First draft is complete. It was bloody hard, dragging those 80,000 words out in snippets of borrowed time (and I admit occasionally times when I should have been writing grant assessment reports). The final effort thus became a little oddly structured and haphazard, with scenes of occasional beauty that I am loath to admit dragged the tale down. Hindered the flow.

Where's me hatchet...

Where’s me hatchet…

I stuffed the novel (Breaking the Angel, yup the genesis of the name of this blog) in the metaphysical closet. Concentrated on my equally haphazard research for Feather White. Figured FW was a more nobel endeavour.

Here’s the thing. Humble Breaking the Angel keeps tugging at the corners of my mind. I’ve been struggling to write recently, struggling to do much. Hermitting myself away. Watching too much Hannibal (series 3, episode 6 – CRANIAL SAW MOMENT!).

It’s the first novel I ever seriously set out to write. And I love it, even in it’s brokenback state. It isn’t sellable, it can’t make up it’s mind whether it’s teen fiction or serious fantasy. I don’t care. They are my words, my endeavour.

Here’s the rub. It could be so much better. It deserves it, but I’ve been far too soft. Partly that’s because when I read those 200 pages I veer between, I LOVE YOU and OH MY GODS THIS IS APPALLING DERIVATIVE CRUD! The worm of self doubt creeps in. The second edit seems overwhelming.

I hate editing, me!

I hate editing, me!

Well, I needed to do something to justify my current feckless underemployed status. So this week I opened the file with trepidation. I took an honest look at it. Then I began to wield my scythe with a ferocity I’ve never known before. I embraced Faulker’s maxim – Kill Your Darlings. It’s cathartic. The first 20,000 words are much sharper, the pace much more sustained. I’ve amended a few minor plotting issues, written greatly improved linking scenes. I’ve trashed large tracts of redundant text. It’s hard to do, but there’s always the old backup file if I relent…!

I still have a way to go but I’ve been astonished at what 3 days hard graft with a steely mind has achieved. I want this project finished, off my desk. I want to be proud of it, able to circulate it to a small pool of beta readers for feedback. It’s not been good enough until now. I know my strength – being able to write beautiful descriptive passages – is also a weakness when they overwhelm the pace of the plot.

So I’m giving myself another 2 weeks to finesse this novel. My darlings are bleeding out all over my study. I think it’s making me a better writer, being able to more honestly appraise my own strengths and weaknesses. My procrastination is still fierce, but I’m slowly crawling out of it. Here’s to another 60,000 words, just waiting to be felled!


9 thoughts on “How Not To Write a Novel Part 2: Don’t Hug Your Darlings

    • My roll has been derailed by a super massive real ale hangover this morning, I am sure curry and a bucket of strawberries will help restore my cognitive abilities for tomorrow! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  1. I love this! How exciting, even though I imagine it IS hard to “kill” so many of your words. I have enough trouble editing my short stories, I don’t even want to imagine editing a novel!!

    BTW, if you’re looking for beta readers, I’m raising my hand… 😉

  2. You’re a very talented sculptor of words after the editing process it will be an enthralling and intriguing page turner. Through a strange twist of fate, I’ve now ended up working in North Sheilds and came across the written piece that won the libraries writing competition, magnificent to read.

    • Really?! That’s amazing that you got to read Private 48169 (form the 2014 comp, I’m thinking rather than Charybdis which was 2011) – that is such a personal piece to me, and all kudos for North Tyneside Libraries for running the comp in the first place.

      And thanks so much for the lovely compliment.

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