Sometimes you have to kill it.


Now hopefully this title isn’t going to result in some uniformed officers knocking at my door at 9 pm tonight.  If that happens I’m going to rely on you, my readers, in explaining this.

Writers are a kind of crazy lot.  We wander off into worlds that no one else can see, pick a few people and write stories about them. We use words to get into the character’s heads and describe what goes on around them. But it doesn’t always work out smoothly.

Stories aren’t straight lines or paths that are easy to follow. Sometimes they disappear completely leaving the writer stuck as to how to go on.  Usually the writer will read back through the story or look at notes, but sometimes, even that defeats the creative mind.

I have tried all sorts of techniques when I get stuck.  Listening to music to catch the mood, research, photos, talking to a friend about where I am stuck. Sometimes these things work.

This time it didn’t.

So I had to try something new. A few friends had mentioned mind mapping. A technique that can be done with computer programs or on a simple piece of paper. I started with the three main ideas and cascaded other ideas down.  Suddenly I realized something.  My main character was a virtual cardboard cut out.  No personality, no back story, no life.  So I put a few ideas down on the mind map and bam… I knew who he was. What his conflict would be.

Then I looked at my story.  At over 5500 words, there was no way I was going to be able to plug in that information AND keep the word count under 6000. The story would be much too long.

So I looked at what I could cut out.

With the much improved main character, I realized the beginning and the first scenes would not work. They didn’t bring in anything to the character.  The situation yes, but I could paraphrase that in a few bits and pieces.

So I did what many other authors do.  I started killing my darlings.

With a quick swipe of keyboard I killed almost 2000 words. (After of course saving a copy of that draft in another file.)

Now I am back up to almost 4000 words, have plenty of room for the ending and have a character that isn’t quite so flat.

Yes I advocate killing, but only to improve the story.

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