Yes, writing is a process. A thrilling and frustrating one! We are in the business of helping people express themselves, so we like to offer ways to make writing and self-publishing more thrilling and less frustrating. (Perhaps I also enjoy the sound of my own opinion!)
A couple thoughts:
This advice is my favorite of all time. “‘Kill your darlings’ has been attributed to many writers over the years. But many scholars point to British writer Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch who wrote in his 1916 book On the Art of Writing: ‘If you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this: ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.’”
Even the formidable Stephen King (who is no stranger to murderous characters) agrees. “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
This murder literally refers to assassinating an element in your book; banishing it from the manuscript because it doesn’t work. Your brilliant description of a one-of-a-kind sunset may be unnecessary in this book because it has no place being there. You may have superbly described it, but it could belong in another book because it did nothing to advance this particular story.
This homicidal recommendation also refers to:
- Unnecessary plot lines or twists
- Turns of phrase that are contrived
- Characters you love but don’t need
This is where you must be honest with yourself and do what’s best for the good of your book and your readers. Remove it. But don’t trash it. Keep a file of anything/anyone you’ve ever slain.
Your next book could easily center on a character who didn’t make the cut in this book, but at the next book’s end he’s seated on a beach watching his last sunset before slipping into the ocean to drown. Perhaps that guy deserved a magnificent sunset to make peace with himself.
A last word on saving everything!
Those sentences that pop into your head in the middle of the night? Record them in your phone right away. That one sentence could be the genesis of your next book or just the first sentence you’ve been struggling to find. Please trust me…you may think the sentence is so great you can’t NOT remember it. But you won’t. And it was probably a gem. That’s a crappy way to start any day!
You visit a psychologist if you need an unbiased opinion. That’s because your friends may tell you, “It’s not you, it’s him!” when there are troubles in your marriage, or “Your boss is such a loser!” when it could be you who is the slacking employee. In times of trouble, you want to turn to a professional.
It’s the same when you write a book. Your friends and family might think it’s wonderful and they “wouldn’t change a word!” Or perhaps you’re a victim of what we call the Aunt Betty Syndrome. That’s when you have your masterpiece edited by your favorite aunt because she is retired and loves to read. (And she won’t charge you!)
Just like the shrink who straightened you out on how to handle interpersonal relationships, a professional editor will liberate your message. Not dilute it or change the way it sounds or means, but to free it up of technical details that are weighing it down. Your book deserves a fresh perspective by trained eyes.
Great writers are well read. You learn SO much by experiencing how the masters do it. Back to Stephen King…his books may not be your genre of choice, but he is a virtuoso – a true craftsman of the language. His viewpoint is also crazy unique, so he is a good lesson in finding your voice and presenting it.
If you don’t want to have nightmares after reading one of his books, (and you will – I’ve read almost all of them! — still not over a scene in Misery that I read like 25 years ago!) check out his On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. One of his many salient points about writing is that if you want to be a good writer, you need to be an avid reader. In my opinion, this is a must-read for anyone putting fingers to keyboard. And it’s not a dry “how to” book – it’s very much alive and relevant.
So, murder…edit…read…repeat. These tactics will help put the thrill back into the art of writing and make you a whole lot better at it!
Conscious Shift Publishing consults, edits, formats, designs, publishes, and markets books. Whether writers wish to self- or indie-publish we inspire them through every step to promote their unique perspectives. CSP clients retain 100% of their royalties as well as 100% ownership of every digital file and image. Find out more at ConsciousShiftPublishing.com or contact publisher, Tracey Kern, at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a complimentary consultation. Write on!