Saturday, April 14, 2007

I'm Murdering My Darlings

"Murder your darlings" has been ascribed to a number of famous British and American writers of the past. It's also been ascribed to one who's not so famous nowadays, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. I've decided that line must have come from Sir Arthur because, of all the writers who've been given credit for it, he has the coolest name.

From what I've been reading lately, I think I need to keep Time and the Solder to 120,000 words tops. It's rather longer than that now, and I still have stuff to add. Not huge chunks of stuff. Rather, I have a long list of notes -- missing or inadequately treated plot points, basically -- to take care of, and doing that will surely increase the length of the ms. So I need to trim and trim. I also need to read it from the beginning and get a new, fresh grip on the whole thing before I take care of some of those notes. So I'm starting from the first page again, reading through the ms., and while I go along, I'm wielding the author's bloody knife and murdering my darlings.

Sob. Some of them are sooo darling.

It's more than a matter of length, though. There's too much introspection and internal monolog and auctorial meandering and philosophizing and stuff like that -- fine for the mainstream, but not acceptable in genre fiction unless one is well established and has a large and solid fan base. So in addition to shortening for total word length, I'm also trying to make sure the story moves along rapidly. Carrying the reader along with it, one hopes.

The underlying image in the novel (I hope I didn't say all of this before) is that of the onrushing river of time, carrying the characters helplessly along. I'd like the writing to convey that feeling. Without drowning the reader. Or bashing him against rocks. Or submerged dead tree trunks. Or carrying him over a waterfall. Or --

Christ, it's just a metaphor, okay? Jeez!


Chris said...

Very Heraclitus:

"A man cannot step into the same river twice, for it is not the same river, and he is not the same man."

Always liked that one.

David said...

Hmm. Me, too, and I never even made the connection between the novel's theme and that quotation.

I need to work that in somehow. Have some character quote it, probably.