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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

New Book Update: Reincarnate Your Darlings


If you’ve ever agonized over deleting a sentence, paragraph or whole chapter, but know it’s what you need to, there may be relief.

Not always, not even often, but every once in a while, you can reincarnate the darling you had to kill.

darlingsIn a previous post, I described how identifying the fixed points in my novel – the scenes that absolutely must happen – helped me see how one unessential chapter severely limited my story. Killing a darling scene and the whole chapter that led up to it was what I needed to do.

New plot possibilities made it easier to let go, but I haven’t actually gotten to the point of deleting the chapter from the draft. I have removed the scene card from my story deck and eliminated it from my table of contents. I let it die in my imagination; I no longer think of that scene as part of my book.

revision angst Still I have a feeling that when it’s time to open the file that holds my entire manuscript, select that whole chapter and hit “Delete,” my heart will not break, but it will creak.

Last week, I found new hope for all of us who suffer from revision angst — I discovered that darlings can spontaneously reincarnate.

I didn’t start a new scene to replace the deleted darling. I wasn’t looking to shoehorn dialogue and backstory from the scene into some other scene. If I had, I would’ve been trying to re-animate a dead darling, instead of letting it die and reincarnate. And we all know how well reanimation worked for Dr. Frankenstein.

While dreamstorming a completely new scene, I heard my new POV character Kat talking with her Uncle Mick. Valuable information and character development emerged in their dialogue and actions.

Then out of the blue, I heard Mick say something about the deleted backstory. I wasn’t forcing anything; the dialogue flowed naturally in my imagination and later onto the page. Kat got the information she — and the reader — need from just the right person at the right time.

I was ecstatic. This unexpected gift re-energized my drafting. The new scene won’t include all the backstory I originally drafted into the darling scene. I’ll need to be picky about what to keep.

But then, being picky about what to keep is what revision is all about.

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6 Comments on “New Book Update: Reincarnate Your Darlings”

  1. Marion Stella Wittenbreer January 2, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

    Thank you Rosanne. Seems like a great attitude towards one’s edited material. And a good way of thinking about how we write. Do you think maybe we sometimes need to process certain mat’l that we end up not using? It is almost like ‘moving through’ material rather than writing and cutting.

    And I agree with Betty. It is easy to just “cut” and “save” to another file; easier than saying good-bye forever until much further down the process.

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    • rosannebane January 7, 2015 at 10:05 am #

      Thanks Marion. Yes, I agree that we need to process material we won’t use in the final draft. I know I have to write more than will ever end up in the book — I have to write (or at least imagine in detail) scenes about characters’ backstories and what happens “behind the scenes”. There’s the book we write for readers and the book we have to write for ourselves to be able to write the book for readers.
      The challenge is recognizing which is which. Falling in love with darlings makes it harder to recognize stuff that is “For the Author’s Eyes Only.”

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  2. Betty Liedtke December 31, 2014 at 9:42 pm #

    Whenever I have to kill my darlings, or delete any portion of something I love (or think I may want to eventually use somewhere else) I create a new folder for “Cuts” in whatever writing project I’m working on, and I put the cut content there instead of just deleting it altogether. I don’t think I’ve ever gone back and resurrected anything from any of my “Cuts” folders, but I sleep a lot easier knowing I can. And it’s much easier to hit the “Delete” key for that material in the actual manuscript.

    Like

  3. Anonymous December 29, 2014 at 9:10 am #

    This was an excellent posting Rosanna. Thanks.

    Like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Neither Twisted Writer or Blocked Writer – Dreaming Writer | Bane of Your Resistance - August 21, 2015

    […] The darling I had to kill was an entire scene. I couldn’t really open my novel for revision until I finally let go of a scene that I knew in my heart of hearts was forced. I wanted something to happen and I looked for ways to make that happen. When I manipulate my characters, it shows. (read more) […]

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