Killing My Darlings

As many of you are aware, I’ve written a full, young adult, Sci-Fi adventure, called SubAqua. Technically, I wrote it in November of 2014 during the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) event. I wasn’t registered for the event, but who cares? I did it anyway. Long story short, I have beaten this manuscript to death. I probably have about a dozen distinctly different drafts, and even more first chapters. I had a critique of my first ten pages from a professional literary agent, and although it was generally positive, I still (as always) had some work to do. So, I did it. It took me about six months, but I finally got through the whole manuscript, which now sits at just under 87,000 words.

I’ve submitted to around 15 agents, and entered the manuscript into #PitchWars, which is a Twitter event designed to hook up writers and mentors, and eventually agents. I submitted to an additional six mentors. I’ve not had any requests for additional pages. As an aside, my new goal is to get someone to ask for page 11, as almost everyone wants the first 10 pages of a manuscript for submissions. (Mine will go to eleven. Get it? Spinal Tap? Anyone?) I’ve been given some good feedback and positive comments, but I also get comments like, “I couldn’t get fully absorbed in the story.” So in my mind . . . let’s fix those ten pages. In Stephen King’s book, “On Writing,” this is what he calls killing your darlings—all those words you worked so hard to get right.

I recently read my first ten pages to some new critique partners, and was advised to rethink where I started my manuscript. I’ve tried this before and absolutely hated . . . HATED . . . what I’d done to my story. This time, I was advised to start with the actual explosion rather than the aftermath (I know this is kinda cryptic), and I was having trouble putting the story together from that point. But, I thought about it overnight. I thought about it while trying to sleep. I came up with a plan.

So, I dragged my laptop into my basement writing lair, fired up the Keurig, put on a “Coffee Shop” soundtrack (Yep, that’s a real thing), and stared at the screen. Damn you, fingers! And then, I got some words to come out. It started to gel, and I wrote about six completely new pages to start my story from where my critique partners thought it should start. I split the previous first chapter into two, and rewrote parts of that. I found a great new place for chapter breaks, and I even found a “better motivation” for why my protagonist is getting drawn into the story in the first place. All this rewriting stuff has happened today, so I’m sure I have a really “Shitty First Draft” (as it is commonly known) of the first couple of chapters.

But the result of all this was that I was fired up about my manuscript today. It’s hard to stay excited about anything after thirteen revisions, but today, I was all pumped up about tearing holes in (a copy of) my manuscript. I want to share two relevant quotes:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” —Thomas Edison

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” ― Thomas Edison

I’m not giving up on this until you see a hard cover book with my name on it on the shelves of your local Target.

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2 thoughts on “Killing My Darlings

  1. Hi Mike,

    I read your blog and am glad you aren’t giving up. You have a good story. You are still in the early stages of trying to find an agent. A lot of best selling authors received many more rejections than you have before having their first book accepted.

    I’ve missed seeing you at the meetings. We have a Penquin Random House author as our speaker this Saturday. Also, you might want to renew your MWA membership. Joelle and I have been going to the state meetings and it is a much better board of directors and they are moving ahead with changes.

    For example, There will be a conference in March on this side of Annapolis. Tentative plans so far include discounted costs for MWA members, plus one free meeting with an agent or editor, plus the opportunity for additional ones if wanted (I think that cost would be $25). Also, one of the keynote speakers tentatively scheduled is the internationally famous Jeffrey Deevers. With the discount on admission and the agent meeting, it would be cheaper to pay a year’s dues than to pay the additional cost. They are hoping to build membership this way.

    I had a health issue and was in the hospital for a few days. So I still can’t been able to drive, so I have been working on Crissy’s Blizzard and other writings recently. Like you I cut the first entire chapter that took place in school and part of the last chapter. It is still hard to kill some of those darlings.

    Are you planning to do Nanowrimo? We have already scheduled a kick-off and some write-in dates. Hope to see you soon.

    Keep writing,

    Jo

    ________________________________

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    • Jo,

      First… I’m sorry to hear that you’ve not been well. On the bright side, you are now free to do some writing. I wrote most of SubAqua while I was at home for a month recovering from my neck surgery. It was actually quite nice to have the down time.

      I’ll look into the MWA thing again, but I am already planning to attend the SCBWI MD/DE/WV conference, and I might also attend the SCBWI Mid-Atlantic conference in October. Now, I’m not certain I’ll do anything for NaNoWriMo this year. I’ve been considering rewriting the Jacob book. I really like the story, but man, that manuscript is terrible. We’ll see…

      Get well soon!
      Mike

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