Killing Your Darlings

Writing is a bit like giving birth; not just because it’s painful and messy and involves an awful lot of screaming and crying, but because you spend months (or years) of your life bringing a little part of you into the world, and even more time trying to mold it into the best version of itself.

So it’s natural to become attached to your work.

And just like it’s hard to hear criticism of your children, it can be difficult to hear criticism of your writing as well. And even more difficult to act upon that criticism.

Especially if doing so involves killing your darlings.

*Wonders if I should rethink this analogy. Keeps going anyway.*

Where was I again? Oh, right.

Killing your darlings. Deleting or changing beloved words/sentences/paragraphs/chapters/characters/plotlines/etc in your precious, precious work to (gasp!) improve it overall.

In revising my MG Fantasy, I just removed/rewrote my favourite parts: the witty, acerbic dialogue between my two MCs. Why? Well, because critiques had helped me realize their voices were two similar.

As much as I loved seeing my two characters snipe at each other, they couldn’t both be masters of snark. Not only was it confusing for readers, but it went against one MC’s personality. So, it’s gone.

Did it hurt? Damn Skippy.

But is the book better for it? I certainly believe it is.

And, as I enter my (hopefully) final revisions before sending it out into the world, I’ll be looking for more darlings that aren’t contributing to the overall quality of the book. Because no part of your manuscript should be considered too precious to improve* (insert gif of Gollum here).

*Not saying that every critique you receive will be right, or carry the same weight, but if you get multiple critiques of the same issue, it’s definitely worth considering ways to improve things.

 

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February Check-In

January was quite the month this year. On the bright side, between sick days (mine and the rest of the family’s), snow days, and the end of Xmas Holidays, I got a lot (no, really, *a lot* – check out the numbers below) of reading and audiobook-listening done.

But I did also manage to revise SHADOWCATCHERS enough to send it to my critique partner, and now I’m already ploughing (wait, or is it plowing? Is this one of those Canadian/American/British things?) through those revisions.

I’m feeling pretty great about it right now, and I think I’m going to try querying it, so I guess I’ll add “research agents,” “write a query letter,” and “write a synopsis” to my writing goals. Worst case scenario, if no agent wants it because it’s already been on sub in the U.S., I can still submit it to Canadian publishers later.

And that’s where I’m sitting, writing-wise. I’m itching to get started revising my Adult Urban Fantasy – I’ve been bouncing ideas around in my spare time, and I have some great plans for how to fix it up already.

And now for my January Reading Stats:

(Before you get too shocked over these numbers, I’ll point out that I read/re-read a fair number of shorter MG books, that only took and hour or two to get through, as well as some shorter/faster paperback novels. However, I also DNF’d a book at the 16-hour mark, so I feel like that balances things out a little.)

  • MG Fantasy (7)
  • YA Fantasy (3)
  • A Urban Fantasy (3)
  • A Mystery (9)
  • Re-reads (19)
  • DNF (2)

Year to date: 22

Re-reads: 19

The Magic of Showers

Writing is hard.

Or at least, writing a good, coherent story with zero plot holes, engaging characters, and gripping stakes is hard.

Some days the words don’t want to come

For me, when I hit one of these blocks, it usually means something in the story isn’t working – I just haven’t noticed it yet. But my subconscious has, and it’s the one throwing up road blocks trying to get me to slow down before I write myself off a cliff.

Or something like that.

The point is, that sometimes I need to walk away. Not permanently. Not even for very long. But (for me at least, YMMV) sitting and staring at the dreaded pulsing cursor of doom is not helpful.

What works for me is getting my butt up out of the chair and doing something relatively brainless, so my mind can wander and try to deal with whatever plot bunnies are plaguing me. Good tasks for this include showering, cleaning the house, and going for a walk.

In fact I can credit a shower with last week’s solution to a plot issue in my MG Fantasy. I’ve been working on this book on and off for years with the help of an agent and editors, but none of us even noticed this plot problem, let alone the relatively simple way to fix it (okay, while the fix is simple, actually incorporating it into the book will take a little more effort).

The point is: that’s how magic showers are. And bonus: they also get you all clean and stuff.

2019 Writing Resolutions

As you can tell from the date of this post, I’m really on top of this whole New Year’s Resolution-thing.

Oh well, better late than never, right?

Anyway, I thought I’d post my Writing Resolutions for the year, so you can all help keep me accountable. As usual, I’m restricting my resolutions to things I can actually accomplish on my own (ie. I’m not putting ‘get an agent’ or ‘land a publishing deal’ because the only things I have control over is writing and submitting – not whether anyone likes it enough to sign me.)

I don’t have a lot of resolutions this year, but the ones I have aren’t exactly small, so it’ll be interesting to see how the next twelve months shape up.

2019 writing Resolutions

  • Finish revising SHADOWCATCHERS (my MG Fantasy)
  • Send SHADOWCATCHERS to my fabulous critique partner/beta reader
  • Revise again
  • Send SHADOWCATCHERS out to Canadian publishers
  • Revise my Adult Urban Fantasy WiP
  • Query it with agents
  • Write something new
  • Attend 1 conference
  • Read more recent MG Fantasy

I’ve already made a start on the first – my goal is to finish revising SHADOWCATCHERS and send it to my crit partner by the end of the month. (Of course, it would help if my kids would stay healthy enough to actually attend school and give me time to write.)

I’ve also made a list of 2018 MG Fantasies I want to read, and started requesting them at the library. Unfortunately not many are available as audiobooks, so I might be a bit slow plowing through those.

Well, that’s it for my list. Post yours in the comments so we can cheer you on, too.

2018 Reading Breakdown

I can hardly believe it but, including re-reads, I read over 200 books last year! 190 were new reads, 16 re-reads – of those 206 books, 24 were paper books, 182 were audiobooks (thank you, Libby app!) and I also DNF’d (Did Not Finish 4 other books).

I thought it would be fun and informative to see how my reading stats broke down, so here we go:

For the record, I’m not counting the re-reads in this breakdown, or the two short story anthologies, so I’m working from a total of 188 books.

Of those books:

  • 12 were MG
  • 114 were YA (61 of those were Contemporaries)
  • 62 were Adult

56 had main or POV characters with some kind of marginalization (including race, gender, sexual preference, chronic illness/disability, and/or mental health issues).

Those books had 145 different authors (some books were co-authored), of those authors (from what I could see on their bios):

  • 27 were Male
  • 118 were Female
  • (None were Non-Binary that I know of – definitely something to try and do better on next year)

Of those Authors:

  • 36 were (according to their bios) people of colour, LGBTQIA, chronically ill/disabled, or non-neurotypical – again, definitely a number I’m aiming to beat this year

If you’re interested in finding out the best books I read in 2018, check out these posts (Parts One, Two, and Three of my Favourite Reads).

I don’t know if I’ll read quite as many books this year (I kind of hope I don’t, because it’ll mean I’m spending more time writing), but I will aim to read more by non-white, non-cis, non-straight, non-healthy authors.

What are your reading goals for 2019? Let me know in the comments.

 

When is A Re-Read Not a Re-Read?

As you already know if you follow this blog, I’ve been tracking all the books I’ve read this year so I can compile some statistics about my reading habits (tune in to next week’s post to see the results).

Part of my tracking has involved recording which books are new to me, and which are re-reads.

But this month I hit a little snag: what if you know you’ve read a book, but have absolutely no memory of what happens in it? Does it still count as a re-read?

My memory has been pretty fuzzy since the concussion, so even some of my regular re-reads have gaps, but these books are complete blanks. I know for a fact I read most of the Sue Grafton alphabet mysteries in high school and my  early twenties (I think I stopped around M is for Malice) but when I listened to the audiobook of A is for Alibi this month, it didn’t feel even slightly familiar.

So…do I count it as a re-read or not?

I think I’m going to, because I know I’ve read it (and the others I’ve been reading), but I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let me know in the comments.

Now, for the last of my Reading Stats of 2018:

December Reading Stats:

  • Adult Fantasy (3)
  • Adult Urban Fantasy (9)
  • Adult Mystery (9)
  • Adult Sci-Fi (1)
  • Re-Reads (3)

December Total: 22 (+3 Re-reads)

2018 Total: 190 (+16 Re-reads)