Finding Mulligan: Murder Your Darlings

I EDITED AND THE BOOK GOT SHORTER.

This is unprecedented! Hahaha.

Written in my journal December 30, 2007:

“I’m thinking a bunch of it might be cut later. This is a special case and all, but I’m not sure how many people want to watch my character go to the hair salon.”

Verdict from others:

Mom: The hair salon part is BORING. You need two paragraphs about that, tops.
Rob: There was one part I thought was really slow and unnecessary. It’s this part where she goes to the hair salon?

Uh . . . surprise. There are also two other scenes just like this (though neither of them are a whole chapter long, so this was public enemy #1), where I went on for a long time just dilly-dallying over a concept.

So, I basically cut almost the entire chapter out. There is still some of the beginning in there, and then just before the actual hair salon detaildetaildetail stuff starts, I chopped and summed it up in two and a half paragraphs, after she’d already gotten home from the salon.

I identified what I really wanted that chapter FOR, and tried to keep those things. I identified three important things I’d established in that chapter and wanted to keep. Unfortunately, one of them was chopped. I’m annoyed about that. It wasn’t super-important, but the way Cassie thinks at certain times is really telling, and that was one of the clues I’d planted for people to see it in action long before it was pointed out. Boo.

The other scenes (a conversation about muffins and a quest to capture a disobedient cat) will probably be shortened too. Though the cat scene is only four pages so it doesn’t need much cutting. The reason it needs slimming is that it is four pages of a girl chasing a cat. Yeah.

I have seen the phrase “murder your darlings” suggested many times in “how-to” writing quote collections; the experts say that you can’t expect to succeed at writing unless you are willing to kill some of your words. I am willing. But what bothers me most about this is that this book, though some people say the pace is slow at first, is the FASTEST-paced book I’ve ever written. It’s the shortest, and it’s more action-oriented because the character has a quest and she’s pursuing it with enthusiasm. Yes, I stop along the way to admire the flowers—meaning there’s a lot of DETAIL about how she feels about everything that happens to her—but it’s not possible for me to stop writing my characters with feelings. That doesn’t work, and nobody enjoys the product of a plot-only story. This story IS Cassie. I can’t take “her” out of it.

The “get to the point” mentality caused me to crush many avenues I ordinarily would have explored. My characterization suffered greatly in doing this, though it’s probable no one can tell. I am used to having VERY well-developed characters. You usually really get to know these people. But with this pace and my devotion to the Word Count Gods, I only have room for a few sketched out idiosyncrasies and phrases and character traits to make up each person (except the main character). It feels so hollow sometimes, and there’s not a lot I can do about it because I had to choose.

I’m not good at murdering my darlings, so I had to write it short in the first place. That’s why I did it. And that’s why those “boring” chapters appeared in the first place; they were a gut reaction, a response to characters not ready to deal with what I was throwing at them because their minds weren’t developed yet. It’s like I’m doing this whole thing with premature babies. They weren’t done cookin’ yet. And it’s not that *I* didn’t carry them to term; I did. In most cases. It’s just that you weren’t allowed to watch. So you don’t know all those complex finishing details sometimes. You don’t get to see and feel Cassie’s reaction when she goes to get her hair done and sees what it looks like when it’s finally finished. You don’t get that experience because all things considered it isn’t one of the most important things. It’s not the baby’s heart and brain or anything. But preemie babies are usually born underweight and with respiratory difficulties. We want our babies to have circulatory and nervous systems, yes, but we want them breathing, and we want them chubby and cute.

And dammit, Cassie was already kinda skinny.

I don’t like editing. I’m not even all that attached to this character and it still feels a little raw over here.

A few new people were born in dreamland this morning, too. I wanted to fill out the atmosphere a little when I introduce the other world in my book, so I populated it a little more heavily. A couple new names to throw around. I wanted to change the introduction of this first-chapter character, Carlos. For most of the book people probably think my inclusion of Carlos is totally forced, because he shows up clueless and needing an explanation of “how stuff works” when this is also the audience’s first exposure to “how stuff works.” There IS another reason he’s there, but I don’t want people to think he’s my planted Mr. Exposition. Feh.

Now if I could only do something about the fact that every time Jamie shows up on the screen, the dialogue becomes ridiculously long. THAT BOY TALKS TOO MUCH.

He’s also a lot like me. Coincidence?

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