Artists and writers make their “living” on the opinion of others. If the world likes their work, they get paid, if not they don’t.
And yet, nothing is more terrifying than handing your baby over to someone who could potentially rip your work apart.
Some of the best advice we’ve ever been given regarding writing is to “slay your darlings.” Meaning, don’t get to attached to a scene or character that you are unwilling to remove it from your story.
I remember when Layne flew to Omaha for our first round of intense editing. We had four days to read through our book and edit together. To be in the “totally cool” word count range a book needs to be between 80,000-89,000. We were around the 70,000 word range, and didn’t necessarily want to delete anything, we simply wanted to fill holes where needed. Thankfully, we drank wine and at some point during night one while Layne read, I started to randomly shout, “BOOOORRRRRING” at certain parts and had fun crossing out large sections with my red pen.
By the end of those four days, we deleted over 20,000 words, turned major characters into minor characters and visa versa. Layne left, and we had to rewrite half of our book.
When we handed our second draft to our first round of beta readers we felt 80% done and very good about our story. But after we received their input and comments we realized we were maybe 50% done, and went back to the editing room where we again cut out large chunks of content, switched around sections, and added more details.
Two months later we sent our third draft out to our second round of beta readers, and while we feel this is our strongest draft to date, we are completely terrified of the feedback we will get back on February 10th. One of our readers is an author herself, while the other is an Emmy winner, and has a Masters degree in creative nonfiction from John Hopkins. Talk about intimidating. However, we know it will make our book stronger in the end.
We will hand our fourth and final draft to my (Lindsay) no nonsense former boss and editor whom I call Yoda.
While “slaying your darlings” is never easy, it is always necessary. And if it feels to hard to slay your own darlings, let someone else do it.
What darlings do you need to slay?