You need to kill your darlings. Good friends will line them up in front of the firing squad for you.
Having finished the first major rewrite of my novel, I handed it off to my good friends in The Telltales1. Working around their own busy schedules, most of them managed to read it, and we scheduled a good ol’ novel critique. I was obviously a bit nervous, having never been through one before. I’ve done design critiques and code reviews, and I’ve run enough of both to see some tears. This was at least after-hours and would involve some drinking to make it feel better. In fact, the opening of a new bottle of Writer’s Tears2 was the only thing that made it not feel like an intervention as I sat in the hot seat and my friends gathered around me in a circle.
It was an intervention, though, on behalf of my novel. This was not a feel-good session about how much everyone loved the prose I had slaved over, and it wasn’t a random circle of creative writing students giving out esoteric notes I could easily ignore. This was tough and brutal because every problem or question was completely valid and earned. Faulkner said you need to kill your darlings, but I will add that good friends will line them up in front of the firing squad for you. These are all very good friends. They took my darlings behind the barn and dispatched with them immediately, ala Old Yeller.
So, what’s going to happen, now? Well, I’m rewriting the entire beginning, for sure. I’ve worked out new backstories and arcs for the underdeveloped characters (thankfully, a couple characters were actually fully developed). All of these changes will affect the middle of the book, but I haven’t even gotten there, yet. I can also tell that some of this will change the end of the book, but I won’t even know what’s going to happen again until I get further into it. So, I’m basically rewriting the book, but only because that’s what it deserves. It deserves to be a better book.
After that, I’m sure I’ll have a better draft for my beta readers. Whenever that happens, I’ll be hitting up a wider group of friends, family, and readers to tell me what I got wrong the second time through.
This is exciting. This is building, tearing down, and building over and over again. This is what I do in my free time. This might be some sort of sickness, but I’ve decided to enjoy it and go along for the ride. You can go along for the ride, too, through this documentation of my trials and tribulations. Or you can just wait for me to write more short stories for my son, and I get that. Either way, thanks for reading this while I take a break from that novel for a few minutes.