The cutting pain

Cutting out characters is a terrible thing. And yet sometimes, it has to be done. This is one of the cruel truths of writing fiction.

I finally started the proper edit/rewrite of my novel (DV for short) this weekend. I’m calling it the first draft, because really, my Nanowrimo efforts (from 2008 and 2011) made up more of a zero draft.

I really like the concept of a zero draft. (See e.g. Justine Larbalestier’s post on the concept.) It’s awesomely freeing – just get the words out and don’t worry, because see, it’s not even a first draft yet! This is part of a “Nanowrimo” way of writing, I think, and it really works for me.

I used to be one of those people who never got longer works finished because I ended up editing and rewriting the first couple of chapters for ever and ever (hello, high fantasy princess story from my teen years!). Then I did Nanowrimo for the first time in 2008, and it changed everything. Seriously. I went from a writer who couldn’t get anything finished, who had trouble getting lots of text out, to a writer who can rattle out first (zero) drafts without worrying too much. What does that mean? It means I can now get the crap out first, and I’ve become comfortable with editing. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and the “Nanowrimo method” has helped me get over perfectionism in the first crucial stages of a project. Yes, I still want to get my text to the best possible level. But I now realise it can’t be perfect from the start, and that it’s much easier to edit a hundred pages of quickly-written zero-draft text than it is to edit an empty page.

This method also helped me immensely when writing my master’s thesis, so it’s applicable for all you non-novelists out there too! :) I realise not everyone will like the Nanowrimo method of writing, of course not. Use whatever works for you! But as for me: I’m really happy writing like this. First the frantic zero draft; then, the first, second, third, etc….

I should admit that now is my first time ever really finalising a novel. All my other attempts are still firmly at zero draft level. So this is all new (and a bit alarming)! Still, I’m pretty sure the layered method of editing will work for me. I’m excited to see what eventually emerges. Writing a novel is difficult but wonderful.

Difficult brings us back to the original point of this post (I really rambled there, didn’t I?). Mainly, cutting characters. The thing is: my main POV characters, who are siblings, originally had a younger sister, Marianne. She’s’s a cute little button of a teenager: likes Jane Austen and gothic novels, has snappy exchanges of dialogue with her siblings, and is really adorbs. I like her.

But I think she has to go. While she’s a cute character, and I really like the three-sibling dynamic in a couple of scenes, there are several reasons for removing her, such as:

– concentrating on just the two POV siblings makes several themes of the book clearer,
– Marianne appears in a couple of rather pivotal scenes but as a background character – she doesn’t really have significant motivations of her own,
– she distracts from some elements I want to highlight,
– even though she’s cute, she’s not really that vital.

So, yeah. Objectively, Marianne must go. It’ll make for a clearer, more focused story. Subjectively, though? The horror! I’m just in the process of rewriting some scenes from the start of the book that included her, and my heart bleeds whenever I delete her name and lines. She had such cute lines! And I’m not sure they can be switched to anyone else. Oh the sibling banter!

I feel like I’m murdering poor Marianne. I’m pretty sure I’m doing the right thing, and I can always resurrect her or a character very like her in a later story or novel – but ye gods, I feel like a cruel writer-monster!

Kill your darlings indeed.

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Poetry sale: Strange Horizons

My poem ‘Wolf Daughter’ is forthcoming in Strange Horizons!

I am bouncily happy about this. Strange Horizons is a wonderful publication that I really enjoy reading, and dude, my poem is going to be part of it! Also, this is officially both a) my first speculative fiction publication, and b) the first time I will be making money of any sort with my creative writing.

People, go forth and read the awesome work on Strange Horizons. I’ll let you know when my poem goes online. :)

Now, buoyed by this joysome news, I shall be off to prepare for a job interview. Wish me luck!

Synopsis breakthrough

I woke up this morning at 7am to my upstairs neighbours continuing the renovation they were supposed to have finished during the summer. I think it’s Deeply Wrong to do anything loud that early on a Saturday morning, and hence felt/feel extremely resentful. Grouch grouch. I reluctantly got up a little before 8, after heroically attempting to doze till then, because my neighbours were making far too much noise for further sleep to be possible. Also, oh joyful coincidence, today was also a morning of extreme aches and pains, so there was no point in lying in bed either. *sigh*

However! Due to the astonishingly early hour, I was able to propel myself to perform a task I’ve been struggling with for ages: working on the synopsis for the novel I’m currently revising.

Three hours (definitely didn’t feel like that long, I was in such an obsessive mindflow state) and around 4,000 words later, I’d finished a synopsis from the POV of Gwen, one of my two POV characters in the novel. I solved a ton of plot problems and inconsistencies while doing so. I FEEL AWESOME.

Now I need to write a similar synopsis for Edward, my other POV character. After managing to do so for Gwen (whose storyline I’ve had more trouble with), I’m actually really looking forward to rattling out Edward’s synopsis. I think I need a break first, though – my chronic-pain neck is currently scolding me for neglecting to exercise during those typing-filled three hours. I’m sorry, body of mine, I was in the flow and did not notice the pain till now…!

Poetry by yours truly at Snakeskin

I’m extremely pleased(*) to announce that my poem ‘Blow’ has been accepted for the September issue of the poetry webzine Snakeskin. You can read my poem here. I haven’t had time to read the rest of the issue yet, but I look forward to it.

I’m really happy that ‘Blow’ got accepted! It’s quite an old poem, dating all the way back to 2009, and is the poem that I think began to nudge my style into what it is now – thus, to me, it’s significant. It’s surprising to look at a poem written such a while ago and still feel pleased with it.

My second poetry publication! Huzzah!

(*)”Extremely pleased”, by the way, is code for “hyper as the world’s happiest chipmunk on speed”.