Writing Notes #1 – Darlings & Beginnings

Hi!  So, Writing Notes posts are going to be things I recently learned and don’t want to forget. This week I learned about killing your darlings from listening to Writing Excuses Season 1 Episode 3.  For some reason I hadn’t quite understood this concept up until I listened to this podcast.  Before I thought killing your darlings meant you had to be willing to kill off characters you love, maybe even the main ones.  I thought I was going to have a hard time being a good author if I couldn’t kill off certain characters.  However, I was wrong, and I’m glad to learn this. Killing your darlings actually means being willing to cut anything that hinders the story from being the best it can be.  You might have written a line that you love, or a scene, or a character, or something, and think it’s genius, but if it keeps the story from moving forward then it needs to go.  That doesn’t mean you can’t paste those things into a graveyard document to raise from the dead later in another story, but you should cut them from your manuscript.  Kind of like a bonsai tree, except better. Then, in the next episode they discussed beginnings.  They stressed the importance of first lines in hooking a reader, but you shouldn’t worry about writing your first line first.  They compared it to a used car salesman trying to sell a car.  You don’t know what will sell the car best until you drive it, so go drive it.  Then come up with the selling pitch. Also, beginnings are where you make promises to the reader about what the rest of the book will be about.  That means you shouldn’t trow something exciting in the beginning to catch readers that has nothing to do with the rest of the story.  They did reference James Bond movies and how they’re good to learn from in that they start at the end of a previous story in the middle of all sorts of action which promises action for the rest of the movie.  Then the movie goes on to set up the situation that Bond needs to solve and tells the story of the movie.  That doesn’t mean all your stories have to start like that, but your beginning does need to match the rest of your story.