Who am I?

I am a writing and publishing guru. What I dont know about the market just isn't worth knowing. So what if I'm unpublished? I choose to give other writers the gift of my wisdom and experience* that the other 500,000 writing blogs out there fail to give.
* No actual experience

Saturday, May 28, 2011

massacre your darlings

I want to write a thank you letter to the judges who tossed my entry for a short-story competition I recently entered. It was a 1,000 word children’s story. I maintain that I had a good story to tell, but sadly, it would have needed at least 3,000 words to do it justice.

But I was determined to enter that contest. “Kill your darlings” the mantra goes. So I killed and slashed and massacred. Adjectives, verbs, nouns, entire sentences and paragraphs - gone! At the expense of voice and detail. It was pared right down to the bare bones.

And it sucked. I knew that jamming it into 1000 words had not just killed my darlings, but the entire narrative. The plot plodded along, there was too much telling and not enough showing – just for the sake of brevity. The MC resolved the dilemma quite abruptly, but I’m not sure that a reader would have cared. But a glimmer of hope existed. I had left a few jokes in and thought that they might carry the story.

I was wrong. It fooled nobody, it was awful and the judges agreed. However, they were kind enough to each include a line of feedback. “Good idea, needs developing” said one. “Good use of humour, but needs editing” the other said.

For that, I thank them. For taking the effort not just to say so, but to trudge through it in the first place. And for teaching me the lesson that if a story is worth telling, it’s worth doing well.

Actually, I knew that already, but belief that my story was just so damned wonderful it could withstand heavy-handed treatment deafened me to my own common-sense.

Now, I will go back and treat my story with the respect it deserves. At 3000 words, it might be too short even for a “Chapter Book” for a 6-8 year old. Nevertheless, I will polish it as if it were a precious gem. Maybe one day I’ll find a niche for it, but if I don’t at least I know that I have told it as well as I possibly could have. And that’s the main thing!


  1. Killing your darlings is good practice. But, like you said, sometimes cutting things just for the sake of cutting them sacrifices the quality of the story.

  2. I hope I've learnt my lesson. I might post boh versions of that story on the blog, so it can serve as an example of what not to do.

  3. I wrote a short story once and posted it online and people clamored for more. "This would make a great novel," they wrote. It was about a woman who wondered about this one night right before she married her husband when he disappeared all night. She wondered if he'd cheated on her but she'd never had the courage to ask. Unfortunately, there really is no room for books like that in genre fiction and it's tough to sell mainstream fiction...so perhaps it's an idea for another day. But it's tough sometimes to hold those BIG ideas for someday...

  4. I just did a beta read for a crit partner of a long short story where I suggested turning the story into a novel. Some ideas need time in a story to develop. Good for you giving your idea the respect it deserves!! And good for you for recognizing it!

    (I seem to have found the workaround for Blogger's not wanting to post my comments on some blogs! Yay!)

  5. @ Stephanie. I believe that as long as you still have your faculties, no idea is ever really lost. Ideas can be put on ice for a while, maybe, and developed later, or elements of it may get recycled elsewhere.

    Your story may not have found its niche yet, it might work as a great sub-plot for another piece. It sounds like it's women's fiction. Mind you, I've never found a decent definition of women's fiction - I think it's one of those "know it when you see it" things.

  6. @ Phoenix
    I'd have to weave a few more plots turns into that story in order to turn it into a MG novel (minimum of 10,000 words, I guess). The story's about a genie who tries to trick a new master into using one of the three wishes to set her free. The trick back-fires, but quick thinking sets her free anyway.