If you have any sort of experience in the writing world, you have likely heard the infamous phrase “kill your darlings”—a phrase associated with a variety of writers including Stephen King, William Faulkner, and Arthur Quiller-Couch.
In general, this phrase encourages writers to sacrifice beloved pieces of their work—characters, passages, plot lines—in order to improve the work as a whole. Sometimes your favorite side character has a wonderful personality, but no significance in the story to match. Such a character might be better left on the chopping block, or in a story of their own.
The editing process as a whole requires resilience, but it takes particular gumption to sacrifice the aspects of the story you might have once seen as the best. In my case, it often involves an internal battle followed by some sort of external confirmation that I’m not losing my mind if I completely rework my story.
But as soon as I embrace the idea of that sacrifice, I experience a high—as if I’m some sort of adrenaline junkie for cutting the work I’ve spent countless hours toiling over.
This counterintuitive euphoria arises because that sacrifice brings results. It’s not until I make the decision to cut a major element that I realize that major element held my story back, and now by cutting it I’ve unleashed a realm of potential.
Here’s an example:
This past week, I made the impulsive decision to cut a point of view character from my manuscript. These ideas usually sprout after I’ve already begun a process of editing: I find the courage to reduce the significance of one scene, and then completely cut another, and then next thing I know my major character never existed.
It’s a slippery slope with a surprisingly positive outcome.
I had considered cutting this character since the last time I cut a major character. That probably should have tipped me off that the sacrifice was necessary, but it still required a bit of deliberation before I went in full throttle and obliterated the poor character’s existence.
But as I said, in the world of writing, sacrifice brings results.
Removing that POV character allowed for a variety of improvements: my other POV character received more attention, I rewrote scenes from an active perspective as opposed to the perspective of the onlooker, and I finally met a goal word count because the character’s personal storyline and side characters bit the dust with her.
Despite the twinge of guilt I felt, it paid off.
If you are a writer, I wholeheartedly encourage you to embrace sacrifice. Whether you need to cut out a scene, kill off a character, or completely remove any proof of a character’s existence, it will probably improve your work as a whole. Sacrifices during the editing process help to streamline a story and reveal which aspects of that story really have significance to you.
This will make your story better.
You never know—if you’re anything like me, that major sacrifice to the editing process might be strangely thrilling.
What are your thoughts? Are sacrifices necessary? Should you find a way around them? Do you have any recent experience biting the bullet for the better good of your story?
I spent Saturday at the Tennessee Writing Workshop, courtesy of Writing Day Workshops. This was my second year attending, and the workshop now featured three panels per hour as opposed to one. Panel speakers included Chuck Sambuchino, Kimberly Brower, C.J. Redwine, and Madeline Smoot. Thanks to these speakers, I received plenty of new advice and information about writing young adult fantasy, seeking representation, and what happens after a writer snags an agent.
I also pitched two agents for the first time.
My pitches were scheduled first thing in the morning, and I was nervous, mainly because I had no real idea what to expect. Luckily for me, they turned out better than expected. Both agents were lovely people, and I thoroughly enjoyed our ten minutes together. By the end of each of those ten minutes, I nearly forgot my intention to sell a story to them—instead I focused on the joy of conversing about stories I’ve put years of work into, and the magic of seeing interest spark in their eyes.
Both agents requested material, and I floated out of that room on a cloud of joy.
Because regardless of what happens next—regardless of whether or not their requests lead to offers—I view those pitches as much-earned victories after eight years of trial and error, determination, and work, work, work.
The euphoria I experienced for hours afterwards leads me to write this advice post about the importance of reveling in every single victory, no matter how big or small.
After putting so much work, energy, and effort into a goal, you deserve to take the moment to appreciate it. You should allow yourself to take that moment. It’s easy to jump to the next step—for example, Will the agent enjoy what I send? But you have plenty of time for that next step later. Don't rush into the next stage of worry and preparation. Enjoy the moment you have now.
Congratulate yourself and allow yourself to be congratulated. Feel the happiness. Revel in the victory. Be proud of yourself! Find someone who will listen to every rambling word produced by your adrenaline frenzy, and release the flood. You deserve it.
The life of a writer involves a lot of work, worry, and heartache. But it can also produce amazing victories. Find a reason to feel victorious—whether that is a request from an agent or successfully cutting another 1,000 words from a manuscript—and revel in that victory.
It makes it all a little more worthwhile.
What are your thoughts? If you’ve had a similar experience recently, share it with me. I’d love to hear about your victories, big or small.
These days, it's impossible to walk into a Barnes & Noble, Walmart, or any similar store without crossing paths with an array of adult coloring books, also known as cathartic coloring. It’s hard to say why it took publishers so long to realize that adults not only love coloring—an interest cultivated in childhood—but their stress levels demand a relaxing break.
If you have the heart of a child but the coloring talent of someone trained to differentiate color shades and stick within the lines, you can find a variety of coloring books depicting turtles, cities, flowers, inspirational messages, curse words, and my new personal favorite: book characters.
Over the past year, I’ve noticed several interesting coloring books popping up on sites like Amazon, including one for Avatar: The Last Airbender and at least six different coloring books related to Harry Potter. Now several popular Young Adult series have their own coloring books as well. Here are a few I’ve come across:
This new trend of Young Adult coloring books tempts me more than any others. From the previews I’ve seen, these books are gorgeous. Barring The Mortal Instruments—which boasts both a movie and TV show adaptation—none of the YA novels mentioned above have film adaptations. This means these new YA coloring books offer the first official visual depictions of beloved characters.
Previously, fans of such series would rely entirely on fan art for glimpses of characters primarily existing within the imagination, but now they have countless images at their fingertips. Whether you color the book or not, it's exciting to see scenes from YA novels depicted in such detail.
I wholly support the power of readers to imagine their own images of characters. Even if these coloring books are officially licensed, people should feel free to cling to their mental pictures rather than feel betrayed by another artist’s rendering. But it is still fun to see popular novels depicted in this way, and I bet the authors adore it. I jumped with joy the first time I saw my characters drawn on a piece of paper—courtesy of my college roommate—so I can’t imagine how exciting it is to see a detailed coloring book of the story you spent years toiling over.
If you are interested in purchasing one of these coloring books, they are sold by both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and usually linked on the author’s website. If you are a writer wishing to see your characters brought to life, or a reader wanting extra art of favorite characters, there are many artists who accept commissions and produce wonderful work. As an example, click here to check out the work of my college roommate, who created the image on my website’s home screen.
All in all, the new trend of Young Adult coloring books seems like a great idea, and they have certainly made their way onto my wish list. What do you think? Are adult coloring books a good addition to the YA market? Which series would you love to see depicted in a coloring book?
My name is Sarah LeFebvre. At this moment in time, I am a college student majoring in History and East Asian Studies with three cats, three annual passes to Florida amusement parks, and a dream of one day opening a caramel apple shop.
But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about a dream that has spanned much further in my life than a shop filled with caramel apples: my dream to become a published author.
The title of this blog, “Wonders and Dreams,” sums up what I intend to include in my blog posts. I will share with you my ideas, thoughts, dreams, and aspirations. I hope to update you on my own progress of publishing my manuscripts, share with you tips and advice I’ve learned about writing and publishing, and tell you stories about my many adventures in college.
But first, let’s start at the beginning.
Many authors can trace their writing dreams back to their earliest of days. While I now see hints of my love of storytelling in childhood activities—such as the overly intricate storyline I created for my MyScene dolls—I distinctly remember the moment when I realized I wanted to be an author.
It all goes back to World of Warcraft.
That’s probably not how most writing careers begin, but in my special case, it is. I began playing World of Warcraft in seventh grade, and during the summer leading into eighth grade, my best friend and I discussed storylines to explain the lives of our game characters. I quickly took these story ideas to a Word document, and while in the end they didn’t go far, it sparked a love of creative writing.
I quickly moved on to other stories. Considering my middle school years fell at the same time as Twilight's prime popularity, it comes as no surprise that the first of these stories involved vampires. Next came elves, a personal interest of mine. As with most old writing, it seemed great at the time, but now I can’t help but cringe when looking back. Eventually, going into high school, I thought of the story idea that would lead to my first completed manuscript. If I’m lucky, you’ll hear a lot more about that story later.
As a young person with a fresh dream of future publication, I learned two things:
I have a distinct memory of a friend in eighth grade telling me something along the lines of, “Don’t become an author—you’ll starve.” I still can’t say for sure if this particular statement arose out of a general lack of hope for authors as a whole, or out of a specific lack of confidence in my own skill as a writer. Nonetheless, it taught me something else, which is that I’m stubborn and I enjoy proving people wrong. Perhaps that’s why I’m still a History major after years of people asking how I’ll ever get a job with that.
Long story short, I kept writing. I finished my first full manuscript the summer before my junior year of high school. I finished the sequel my freshman year of college, and the third at the end of my sophomore year. Beyond working on the first drafts of these manuscripts, I edited all three, and wrote countless drafts of the first novel. This past year, I cut the word count by 50%. I also spent January writing the first draft of a contemporary manuscript before brainstorming ideas for a futuristic fantasy. In the midst of all this, I've won local, district, and state short story contests and I was named one of three winners of the Writing Excellency award at my college.
Above all else, these efforts taught me the value of confidence and determination, and I hope to share those lessons with you.
At the end of this week, I will pitch two agents at a nearby writing workshop. In preparation for that, I am writing and rewriting my pitch, preparing questions and answers, and further editing my manuscript. I’m also starting this blog, so I can share my journey with others.
If you keep up with future blog posts, you’ll likely hear about my adventures in Disney World or reasons why I think Dinosaur World is an underrated treasure of Central Florida. But more than anything, you will learn what I have learned—and continue to learn—about the life of a writer.
I write YA fantasy and contemporary fiction. This blog is dedicated to thoughts and advice on writing and publishing, as well as various interests related to the world of Young Adult.