So, two weeks ago I posted about how I was fighting with my chapters and couldn’t get any traction. This issue I was having was holding up the progression of my book. Since it’s written in first person I felt that I couldn’t continue until I knew exactly how my characters were going to meet at the start of this journey. Everything builds from there. I needed to know them, know how their relationships began, before I could continue on with telling their story.
I was struggling, the concept that I had thought up years ago was just not working. I needed to get my characters from point A to point B in an interesting way all the while building rapport and connections as they went but the way I had it set up was falling flat.
So I took a break. I stepped away from my writing for a bit because even though I was building word count it didn’t mean anything. The story wasn’t working. So now what? I answered that question by seeking out others who know better than I. Now, this may be the Ravenclaw in me but ‘when in doubt go to the library’ certainly applies here. I started watching advice videos from authors, reading other blogs, and reading popular novels in my genre.
And one night it paid off.
I was watching an Instragram story by Susan Dennard the author of the Witchland’s series and she was talking about how to write an engaging first chapter when it hit me. Something she said, and don’t ask me to remember what it was, opened my eyes and triggered something in me. Suddenly I had the radical idea to remove the very thing that I built my entire original story around. It was a scary thought but as soon as I allowed myself to think about it suddenly my plot line started falling into place. All the things that were holding me up were no longer an issue. I immediately jumped up from the couch and ran downstairs to start writing and I’m confident that this version of my book is by far the best one yet. I’m hoping it will be the one to stick but no promises since the publishing industry could easily change it but since I’m no longer using my original version I’ll tell you what it was so that this all makes more sense.
In my original, my entire plot was built around the idea that the court Seer from the previous Queen had written letters just before the downfall of the city. One letter for each key player in a scheme to retake the throne, this was how each of my three main characters were going to come together. They all receive a letter telling them that they are crucial to the survival of the city but I just could not make it work. It was a lot of info dumping and awkward conversations that did not feel organic. Also, my main protagonist was falling flat. She had no personality! But by removing the letters and creating a situation where my characters meet by chance it feels more exciting and it works better. In my new version I get to introduce some culture and do some great world building while setting the stage for my characters and that too is also encouraging.
So Mr. Stephen King’s advice to “kill your darlings” is not just a silly phrase it’s absolutely true. Sometimes you need to remove the thing you thought you couldn’t live without in order to make the rest of the story work. Don’t be afraid to imagine your story without a certain plot point, scene, or character because any one of those things may be what will ultimately kill your book. Good luck.
Until next time here’s an inspirational quote to get you through:
“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings” – Stephen King