Sunday, June 13, 2021

Kill Your Darlings

By Claire Booth

I’m at the editing stage of my latest novel. It’s one of my favorite parts of the process. I love working on the word flow, and the phrasing, and the rhythm of things. I make sure I’ve adhered to the three-act structure—which I’ve been doing all along, actually. I don’t think you can have a book written and then shoehorn it into the three-act structure.* But once the whole thing is done, I can make sure that I’m hitting all of my beats as part of a whole piece—instead of one at a time.

I generally know where the problems are. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to fix them. For instance, right now I’m going back and seeding more information throughout the book about one particular character who turned out to be a bigger suspect than I’d first planned. And I’ve flip-flopped in different chapters about whether one fact is tied to another fact. I need to decide—yes or no?

Part of all this involves the really painful step of getting rid of things you love. Whether it’s a character, or a scene, or even just a paragraph (I just deleted one with a great joke about breakfast cereal; trust me, it was brilliant). Sometimes stuff just doesn’t fit, even if it’s great. Get rid of it. Kill your darlings.

Once this is done, I’ll hand the manuscript off to a few people who are kind enough to tear it apart for me. These beta readers tell me if anything is confusing, unnecessary, too wordy, or anything else that detracts from the high quality that I’m aiming for. They’re worth their weight in gold (which is a cliché I hope they would smack me for, if I used it in a book).

*Essentially, this is one-quarter of the book (Act I), then a turning point, then half of the book (Act II), then another turning point, then the last quarter of the book (Act III). There’s a lot more to it—one of the best guides is Alexandra Sokoloff’s Screenwriting Tricks for Authors.

1 comment:

Art Taylor said...

Good luck!
And just been thinking about that three-act structure myself... Glad to see the mention!