Monday, February 8, 2010

Progress Report: 2/8/2010

Rewrite finished! Now I'll get a look at the new chapters from my C&C readers, and Rose & Jade will be ready to go back in front of the agents again.

I'm happy with the rewrite. The opening chapters are more lively and engaging, some of the unnecessary stuff is cut out, and I really like the new prologue. Previously, I was ambivalent about whether the prologue was a good idea or not. Now I'm much happier with its place in the story.

Hey writers out there. Here's something you'll want to see. In the extras on the DVD of Up, they have a segment about the first draft of the opening sequence. They even do an animated version with the storyboard so you can get a rough idea of how the original version would've played out. There are some really funny and clever moments that the writers were very proud of... and it was absolutely the right choice to cut them all out.

If you haven't seen Up, rectify that omission as soon as you can.

If you have, you know that the opening sequence is where we get the full life and relationship between the Carl and Ellie. This sequence is critical. We must fall in love with them in order for the rest of the movie to work. We have to get a full and rich idea of their life in as short a time as possible. And it has to set up the action for the rest of the film.

The original draft version would've dropped the ball. Good as it was, it wasn't good enough. The final version was a masterpiece.

As a writer, what strikes me about the journey from the first draft to the final version is how many "darlings" they had to kill. This is a kind of maxim in editing—"Kill Your Darlings." It means don't be afraid to cut stuff. Even if you've got a brilliant joke or a great character moment, if it doesn't serve the story as a whole, it's got to go.

That's hard to do as a writer. I've done a lot of commentary for other writers, and one of the things that becomes obvious pretty early on is when a writer thinks their own work is too "precious." Instead of listening to critique, they rush to the defense of what they've written. Every sentence is like a baby they have to protect from harm. They never change anything, and it's not worth critiquing them. Not that my commentary is always brilliant or correct—far from it. A writer can be receptive to critique and still decide they don't want to go with a specific suggestion.

And hell, I know how hard it is to make those cuts. It's brutal.

So here's my corollary for "Kill Your Darlings," and it's simple: "Trust Yourself." As in, trust yourself that you can write something even better. Trust yourself that you have it in you to replace whatever you cut with something that works. Once you start trusting yourself, rewriting becomes more fun, I've found.

I've got a lot of darlings to kill off in Thunderstruck. Back to the novelization this week.

Oh, and congrats to the Saints. I get the feeling that Sax and Hayaka were in the audience with their Peyton Manning voodoo doll for that key interception.


Artanis said...

"I've got a lot of darlings to kill off in Thunderstruck. Back to the novelization this week."

Yes. Yes you do. And we'll miss most of them, but if the story suffered for them we would be more disappointed than if it rocked without them.

Anonymous said...

That must be very hard, particularly in Thunderstruck, as they're not only your darlings but ours as well, and I'm sure we'll complain about it loudly. :) But that doesn't mean they don't need to go. Good luck!

Grayson Towler said...


The real trick is to replace them with better darlings.

I feel like even brilliant stories can be improved. The most common place to see this happen is when a good film adaptation of a classic book comes along. There will always be purists who argue against any change... and that's because the "darlings" have become their own. That's when fans can be even worse than authors.

Tom Stoppard had a very interesting quote when he was doing the movie adaptation of Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead, which was something like, "I'm doing the script, because I'm the only one who can treat the source material with the disrespect it deserves." He didn't mean the play sucked, he meant that he knew he had some darlings to cut down to make it work on the screen, and didn't want another writer's reverence for the original material getting in the way.