Guinea Pig Diaries: Little Darlings Anonymous

Have you ever heard of the Kubler-Ross 5 Stages of Death and Dying? Well, as an editor for many years, I’ve seen a similar phenomenon happen with first-time novelists, especially when I was called upon to stage an intervention. Not pretty. I call this process of extracting a writer from her first bad novel, The 5 stages of Edits & Crying, which looks eerily similar to what Kubler-Ross observed:

Denial–My novel is perfect. Agent ready. You just need to keep reading. You haven’t gotten to the good parts yet. Those 67 flashbacks will all make sense on page 282.

Anger–How dare you say anything is wrong with my novel? What have YOU had published??? Huh? You don’t know everything. I haven’t seen your name on the NY Times best-seller list.

Bargaining–Okay, granted, I might not need all 139 characters, but at least 111 are essential, or the ten-book series I have plotted in my head will fall apart.

Depression–Can we talk later? I kind of need to go drink some Listerine right now.

Acceptance–Do what you must *hands me the red pen*

Science has proven (okay well, not proven, but kind of suggested, and all right all of this is made up and LOOK SQUIRREL!!!).

Where was I?

Oh, yes. Science has proven that Little Darlings are highly addictive and, if left untreated, can lead to manuscript paralysis, coma or even death. This addiction is real and real books are hurting.

Little Darling addiction is a serious problem in the writing world, and is estimated to kill at least 900,000 novels a year. Most novels never make it throught the entire gestational process. Little Darlings cause horrific mutations in the manuscript. The birth defects are often so severe that the novel fails to thrive. It is always tragic having to console a writer parent during these times.

So, how does the addiction work? Glad you asked. Apparently, when a writer weaves in friends, loved ones, exes, witty pieces of banter from real life, a Little Darling often forms, much like a tumor. The Little Darling once embedded into the prose, then stimulates the Dopamine response centers in the brain, giving the writer a high not unlike chocolate, winning scratch-offs, or finding a forgotten five dollar bill in the laundry. The writer then likes this high and wants to repeat the feeling.

This is a dangerous cycle that can lead to a metastatic explosion of Little Darlings in a manuscript. The Little Darlings aggressively seek out and then take over actual healthy narrative points and, in the end, the original story is so corrupted with Little Darlings that the story develops Terminal Little Darling Syndrome and death is the most likely prognosis.

There actually are life-saving surgeries available, but it involves so much cutting, bleeding and extraction, usually most writers cannot endure the process. Also, not all surgeons editors have the skill to help the writer remove the Little Darlings without killing the underlying healthy story.

There is generally only one alternative. Writers who are unwilling or unable to obtain WIP surgery are then forced to take the WIP off life support or place their WIP in a home near the computer Recycle Bin.

WIPs then spend their days drooling and eating Jell-O in some forgotten Word folder that the writer never visits. She can’t bear to. She feels too helpless and guilty. So, the WIP with Terminal Little Darling Syndrome spends the rest of its life playing Bingo with partially drafted short-stories and bad break-up poetry.

Little Darling addiction works rapidly and can affect more than just the WIPs. The addiction hurts the writer as well. The writer keeps inserting more and more little precious pieces of prose, OR often will just keep rereading the same pages seeking that first-time high. This behavior then paralyzes the writer and keeps him from moving foreward and finishing the work in progress.

It is a terrible addiction and the only way to fight this is to educate people. TLDS is deadly, but it CAN be prevented. This is why I blog. It’s why I’m here and today, I want you to meet a friend of mine.

A year and a half ago, I met a young promising writer, Piper Bayard. She was one of the most tragic cases I’d ever seen. She was so addicted to Little Darlings that she’d pushed away close friends and family, because they cut into time playing with her imaginary friends. It was an ugly scene and we had to dose Piper regularly with caffeine and let her stroke a shiny bookmark so the DTs didn’t kill her will to write.

She is here today to share her story and how she beat her life-threatening addiction to little Darlings. She canonized the process and created Little Darlings Anonymous for those struggling to let go of this terrible addiction.

Thank you Piper for being here….

Thank you, Kristen. I would like to start today’s meeting with the 12 Steps of LDA:

12 Steps of Little Darlings Anonymous

  1. We admit we were powerless over our imaginary friends, and that our Works Progress had become unmanageable.
  2. We came to believe that an Editor greater than ourselves could restore our prose to sanity.
  3. We made the decision to turn our will and our manuscripts over to our Editors, whoever we understand them to be.
  4. We made a searching and fearless critical inventory of all of our Little Darlings that were wholly irrelevant to our stories.
  5. We admitted to our Editors, to ourselves, and to our beta readers the exact nature of our self-indulgences.
  6. We became entirely ready to have our Editors remove all the Little Darlings from our Works In Progress.
  7. We humbly asked our Editors to mercilessly slaughter all of our Little Darlings when we had not the strength.
  8. We made a list of all persons we had subjected to our original manuscripts and became willing to make amends to all of them who had not killed themselves with sporks by page fifty.
  9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would cause them to injure themselves or others at the mere memory of our manuscripts.
  10. We continued to undergo edits, and, when our Editors sniff out Little Darlings, promptly submitted them for termination.
  11. We sought through study and daily word count to improve our conscious contact with our plots, as we understood them, seeking only the knowledge to distinguish between Little Darlings and actual elements of our stories.
  12. Having had a literary awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to other Little Darling Addicts, and to practice these principles in all of our written endeavors.

Hello, My name is Piper Bayard, and I’m a Little Darling Addict.

Hi, Piper.

Welcome.

Thank you. I’d like to say I’m happy to be here today, but that wouldn’t be true, and I know that, if we aren’t honest with ourselves and others, we’ll never recover from our addictions.

The fact is, I really didn’t want to come. I made up a hundred excuses as to why I didn’t need this meeting. Why I didn’t need to share my story. Why I really didn’t need recovery at all. I was fine. Sure, I knew I had one or two Little Darlings, but I could get rid of them any time.

And then the little voice inside me. . . . You know the one. . . . That little voice that calls us on our crap and keeps us from enjoying the denial we wallowed in before we first logged on to Kristen’s blog and saw the light of Novel Structure. . . . That little voice told me that if I was fighting this meeting so hard, it was because this was where I needed to be. So I’m here.

*Polite clapping.*

Thank you. So this week, I want to share my Step 7 with you. I humbly asked my Editor, Kristen Lamb, to perform Radical Little Darling Surgery on my WIP and extract all of my Little Darlings. *shudder*

I was so proud of my manuscript when I first sent it away. I had colorful characters, exquisite action, and details about everything from trimming pottery to the nocturnal habits of pet mice. Every clever joke I had ever laughed about while partying with my friends was deftly woven in and disguised as meaningful dialogue. And the best part? All of my favorite people I had ever known were right there in one place. Of course, none of that had anything to do with a huntress who must befriend her worst enemy to overthrow a theocratic dictator before he exterminates her people. But it was all so sparkly and shiny.

I didn’t understand at first why Kristen took one look at it and broke out her surgical instruments. But when she placed her scalpel at the throat of one of my favorite-but-forced jokes right on page one, I jumped in front of her, falling to my knees and pleading, “No. Not that one.” I could see she was considering extracting me from the room along with my ill-timed humor, but instead, she mercifully lowered her blade and guided me through a process I now use to help others in Little Darlings Anonymous.

I worked the first six steps for months, fruitlessly attempting to justify inappropriate violence, psychotic character behavior, and excessive verbiage that rivaled the unedited version of The Count of Monte Cristo. But it was no good. The truth is the truth. One Little Darling is too many, and a thousand are never enough. I had to “Let Go, and Let Editor.”

It got bloody fast. . . . *sob*

A tissue box appears and arms embrace me.

It’s ok. . . . I’m ok, now. *deep breath*

Just as I had humbly asked, Kristen showed no mercy. She sliced and diced my cool “reminiscing over every book we own as we’re hurriedly packing them into hiding” scene. She obliterated my two whole stunning chapters on “finding the fugitive in the hidden cave.” She even vaporized my detailed recitation of Mexican border laws in a post-apocalyptic world, just because none of the action takes place at the Mexican border. Can you believe it?

But that wasn’t the most difficult part, and I know this is going to be hard for some of you to hear. . . . Believe me. It’s even harder for me to tell you. . . . She removed then biopsied 74 of my 87 main characters. Even after I named them all and gave each of their backgrounds and habits in depth!

At first, I was stunned. I thought I was ready for that 7th Step, but when she started cutting, I didn’t know if I was going to be strong enough to bear it. I’m ashamed to admit this, but I even thought about running home to my writing group that met every Saturday for fifteen years with no one ever getting published, so I could hear them tell me just one more time how one day, those 587 agents and publishers who turned me down were going to be sorry.

But then, as Little Darling parts flew around me and the scent of blood and burning flesh filled my nostrils, a strange transformation took place. Deep down in my gut, I realized something. . . . This felt goooooood!

Before I knew it, I was right there by Kristen’s side with a laser scalpel of my own, popping off monologues, sniping at adverbs, and hunting down three more of those 87 characters who’d hidden in some redundant metaphors. It wasn’t easy, and I had quite the mess to stitch up by the time we were finished, but now, I have a real plot with relevant characters in place of “tea time with my imaginary friends.”

After a lot of bleeding and pain, my story was saved. My WIP went through six months of WWBC rehabilitation to build strong narrative points and she’s now on the road to full recovery.

I’m living proof, folks. The program works when you work it.

Thank you for listening today.

Grant me the
serenity to accept that things have got to change.

The courage to
change the things I can.

And a good
Editor to help me know the difference.

Thank you, Piper!

What Little Darlings are hiding in your work? Are you ready to have them removed to save your WIP? All the best to all of you for letting go. Do you want to share your own struggles with Little Darling Addiction? Do you have friends or loved ones who need help? This is a safe place to share. Also, feel free to ask Piper any questions about her journey to recovery.

What are your thoughts? Opinions?  I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of August, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of August I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

In the meantime, I hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

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  1. #1 by Laura Drake on August 19, 2011 - 2:26 pm

    She says, fingers in ears, “Na-na-na-na-na-na . . . ”

    You can’t MAKE me!

    Jeez. This crap is hard.

    • #2 by Piper Bayard on August 19, 2011 - 4:49 pm

      I feel your pain. *hands you kleenex box*

  2. #3 by Amanda Rudd on August 19, 2011 - 2:39 pm

    @Laura Drake: You ain’t kidding!

    Though, actually, I can at least SOMETIMES recognize the characters that simply do NOT need to be there. I have one WIP with no less than three characters who are simply unnecessary, sucking up time and energy, and their witty banter is not enough to save them. They are being culled in revisions almost as we speak, which has already cut down on the word count by quite a bit.

    • #4 by Piper Bayard on August 19, 2011 - 4:50 pm

      I think blogging helps reduce characters in WIP. It give us a place to put that witty banter.

  3. #5 by The harem's master on August 19, 2011 - 2:51 pm

    I get your point and there could be a rewrite coming up. I’m going to bookmark your site.

  4. #6 by educlaytion on August 19, 2011 - 2:51 pm

    You guys are great. So true too. So many people think writing is easy. They’ll say things like, “I’ve always thought about writing a book.” As if they’ll just sit down one weekend and make it happen. I think I’ll send people to this post the next time they say that.

    • #7 by Piper Bayard on August 19, 2011 - 4:51 pm

      Geat observation, Clay. Until I read your comment, I didn’t realize how much writing is like bellydancing that way. Some folks come into my dance classes and say, “I wanted to take a couple of classes and learn to bellydance.” … Right.

  5. #8 by Jolyse Barnett on August 19, 2011 - 2:59 pm

    Hey Kristen & Piper,

    Thanks for the warning…

    As I wrap up my final revisions on my WIP, you have placed the fear of LD in me. I’ll let it sit a few years, I mean days, and then go through it all again, hacking out the tumors. My critique partner is an excellent surgeon, I mean editor, too, so hopefully the cutting will be minimal.

    BTW, you both are on my blogroll.🙂

    • #9 by Piper Bayard on August 19, 2011 - 4:53 pm

      Thanks, Jolyse! Much appreciated.🙂 I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers as you, . . . I mean your WIP, . . . goes under the knife.

  6. #10 by Caroline Clemmons on August 19, 2011 - 3:10 pm

    Okay, Kristen, get out of my head! I mean it. How did you know I am in the process of decapitating Little Darlings from a mystery I wrote several years ago? Thankfully, my writing has improved enough in the meantime that I recognized the disease and have sought treatment. Still, I am curious as to how you always know just what’s wrong with my WIP. Are you able to hack into my PC at night when I’m feigning sleep?

  7. #11 by Kate MacNicol on August 19, 2011 - 3:20 pm

    Oh geez, this post makes me strangely uncomfortable. I wonder if I have a problem????? Must go back and look…and then send to friend with red pen.

  8. #12 by Paige Kellerman on August 19, 2011 - 3:33 pm

    “WIPs then spend their days drooling and eating Jell-O in some forgotten Word folder that the writer never visits. She can’t bear to. She feels too helpless and guilty. So, the WIP with Terminal Little Darling Syndrome spends the rest of its life playing Bingo with partially drafted short-stories and bad break-up poetry.”

    Best line of the day…

    • #13 by Author Kristen Lamb on August 19, 2011 - 6:46 pm

      That was my fave line, too😀.

  9. #14 by Marji Laine on August 19, 2011 - 4:18 pm

    This post is so full of gems it should be in a jewelry store! I don’t know whether to salute the writing or cringe at the message, but I do know it’s time to pull out the WIP that has been chilling for the past month and slice and dice through it again!

    • #15 by Piper Bayard on August 19, 2011 - 4:56 pm

      Good luck, Marji! Hope I don’t see you in rehab, but if I do, I’ll share my kleenex with you. Not the used ones.

  10. #16 by rbinshtok on August 19, 2011 - 4:26 pm

    This intervention came at just the right time. Today I am reading a wip I set aside a few months ago, I’m wearing rubber gloves, but here’s hoping that I won’t need to call the CDC.
    Thanks Kristen & Piper.

  11. #17 by jessicaaspen on August 19, 2011 - 4:28 pm

    LOL! You know you have a real problem when you think you’ve cut out all the LD’s, but then it turns out you missed the biggies. What a great way to approach this serious issue. When is the support group starting in my area? I sure need it for my first book. But not the second. Oh no. That one is perfect!😉

  12. #18 by Carrie Butler on August 19, 2011 - 4:50 pm

    Should we expect a Listerine reception to follow the LDA meeting?😉 Fantastic post!

    • #19 by Piper Bayard on August 19, 2011 - 4:58 pm

      Yes. With special homemade brownies. Please leave cash in the tin can as you’re able to cover expenses.

  13. #20 by Anne R. Allen on August 19, 2011 - 5:00 pm

    This is so funny. And true. I spent nearly a decade on my “Little Darlings” book. Which now lies buried forever in an old Word .doc file. I’m not sure I can ever face it again. Thanks to both you and Piper!

  14. #21 by Catherine Johnson on August 19, 2011 - 5:07 pm

    I can’t wait to tell the WOC girls you’ve done a post on guinea pigs. I’ll tell you that story another time. Great post. This last year i have canned a 186 stanza novel, wrote it in prose then killed my little darlings and simplified. I’m trying not to fell like a year’s writing was a complete waste because the wow factor has gone a bit. Time to start something new with no darlngs. Hope you’re feeling better today Kristen.

    • #22 by Piper Bayard on August 20, 2011 - 12:02 am

      If I had done that, my 186 stanza novel would have morphed into a limerick.

  15. #23 by Angela Wallace on August 19, 2011 - 5:23 pm

    Oh yeah, my first novel had lots of little darlings in the form of unnecessary characters. I just wanted them there! And all their pets, lol. I remember cutting out one character completely, and then later reducing the role of another one. That first novel was definitely my little darling, but each time I tried to improve it I got mired in its problems. Finally, I buried my little darling. Sometimes it’s nice to look back and remember it with fondness, but I won’t be opening up that file again. 😉

    Great post. It’s always good to laugh about these things.

    • #24 by Piper Bayard on August 20, 2011 - 12:03 am

      You got me with “And all their pets…” I’m mourning the pet mouse, Gumdrop, to this day. You notice I took this chance to tell you about him?

  16. #25 by patriciasands on August 19, 2011 - 5:24 pm

    Thanks for this. Gotta dash to my next LDA meeting!

  17. #26 by EllieAnn on August 19, 2011 - 5:28 pm

    But…but…how will I deal with my repressed anger at my highs school peers if I cut them out of my novel?! 😉
    Awesome post, Kristen & Piper. Hilarious!

  18. #27 by amyshojai on August 19, 2011 - 5:44 pm

    That is SO not fair! But then (like Mom always said) nobody promised life–or writing–was fair. In the midst of massive slice-and-dice rewrites and it’s bloody-good-fun, it hurts so good and all that crappiocca.

    95 pages down, another 268 to go!

  19. #28 by Barbara McDowell on August 19, 2011 - 5:51 pm

    *hugging one darling tight with my left arm and gripping the hand of another*

    Those little buggers can also hijack short stories and twist the plots in unrecognizable knots.

    Great post and LDA confessions!🙂

  20. #29 by JR Tague on August 19, 2011 - 6:42 pm

    Oh man. I’m getting ready to send my manuscript to a free-lance editor soon so this is well timed. Let the blood letting begin! Hopefully I can remember these important steps when my darlings come back decapitated🙂

    • #30 by Piper Bayard on August 20, 2011 - 12:05 am

      Let us know if you need suicide watch. We’re here to help you. And good luck. It’s a rite of passage.

  21. #31 by Christin London on August 19, 2011 - 7:09 pm

    This is brilliant, poignant and oh so true. YOu are the writing satirist par excellence. *bowing to your giftedness* I shook with laughter.

    Thanks!

    Christine London
    http://www.christinelondon.com

  22. #32 by Laura Marcella on August 19, 2011 - 7:26 pm

    This post is so full of awesome I can’t handle it. But don’t worry, I’m handling it!😉 I love guinea pigs and that photo at the top is too cute!

  23. #33 by Renee Schuls-Jacobson on August 19, 2011 - 8:02 pm

    This is a fabulous piece of writing! And I’m great at killing other people’s Little Darlings. He’ll, it’s what I do! But um Kristen and Piper, if you are trying to tell me something about my perfect sweet thang. Well *clears throat*… It just hurts.😉

  24. #34 by Alana on August 19, 2011 - 8:19 pm

    Great post. I have a big problem with Little Darlings myself, especially when it comes to writing my memoir. I get so attached to little events and scenes even when I know I need to edit them out.

    I believe I get three entries into the hat because I’ve commented, linked back to you on my site, AND mentioned your book in an entry! I saw you speak at that UCLA Extension “Social Media for Writers” class a few weeks ago and got your book afterwards. It’s really helped me rethink my platform, so thank you!

  25. #35 by Alica on August 19, 2011 - 9:12 pm

    A lot of people have a started novel- I had the first in series and unfortunately in was a starter novel which means it needed a lot of work! I have gone through at least ten versions of this book and cut many characters to get where I have it now. It’s still character heavy, but if I sit them around a table for dinner I can easily keep up with them. LOL Hopefully readers will be able to keep up with them also.

    • #36 by Piper Bayard on August 20, 2011 - 12:07 am

      You know, if you can sit them all at one dinner table, I’m guessing you did a great job killing off a few.🙂

  26. #37 by Sue on August 19, 2011 - 9:20 pm

    Thanks for a great post. Humor is a wonderful way to teach.

    I took Holly Lisle’s How To Revise A Novel on-line writing class last year. Cutting and combining excess characters is one of the lessons.

  27. #38 by successbmine on August 19, 2011 - 9:34 pm

    Love that guinea pig photo. Cute! Your article is great and I love the unique way you have written it. It’s so true that we simply don’t want to remove what we perceive as necessary or to admit that the story would not suffer from the removal. It’s painful. It’s humbling. But in the end it is worth every bit of pain. I “finished” my one and only novel last year. A published author in our critique group offered to critique the whole thing! What a gift! I followed her advice in all but one instance and I know I have a better story. Not published yet, of course. And I know that if a publisher accepts it there will be more surgery to undergo.

    I love Piper’s story and solution. It’s refreshing to read something written from a different angle and with so much wit. Thanks for sharing.

    • #39 by Piper Bayard on August 20, 2011 - 12:09 am

      It is definitely humbling. I think it’s easier once we embrace the fact that our novels really aren’t about us. They’re about our readers.

  28. #40 by Jo Tracey on August 19, 2011 - 10:15 pm

    When my BMF said he recognised himself in 2 characters, I knew I had a problem. But I can stop anytime…really, I can…

    • #41 by Piper Bayard on August 20, 2011 - 12:10 am

      Jo, honey, I’d be happy to take you to your first meeting if you need a friend with you to get through the door.

  29. #42 by successbmine on August 19, 2011 - 10:46 pm

    Kristen – just wanted to let you know that I have posted a new article on my web site and linked it to this post. I will also be tweeting it and putting it on Facebook and sharing it with my writer’s group on Ryze.

    http://diane-stephenson.com/executing-our-novel-characters

  30. #43 by Diana Stevan on August 20, 2011 - 12:58 am

    Love the analogy to Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s stages of grieving. Nice job! Kill the darlings and don’t look back.

  31. #44 by Lynn Kelley on August 20, 2011 - 1:37 am

    Love this post. You’ve both too clever and witty and get the point across loud and clear but in a fun way. I can really relate to the part about adding all the funny lines and jokes that I ever heard. Those were hard to excise. And in my very first novel, I had to kill off darling two-year-old Mikey, youngest of five kids. He was so cute and adorable, but he was just taking up space. RIP – Revise in Peace.

    • #45 by Piper Bayard on August 21, 2011 - 1:08 pm

      Lol. Poor little Mikey. I love that RIP. I’ll put that on the headstones of hundreds.

  32. #46 by Tamara LeBlanc on August 20, 2011 - 2:53 am

    I was just about to go to bed, Tweeted a tad, brushed my teeth and then thought, “Oh my goodness! I ran out of time for kristen today.”
    But guess what? I found a smidge before snuggling under the covers…and I’m so glad I did.
    Not only did I love the jello eating WIP reference and all of Piper’s 12 steps, but I’m getting a chance to tell the world what my Little Darlings are (better late than never)
    My critique partners tell me I’m an adjective whore, yep, those words exactly. I use too many of the darn things but just love em to death and think everyone should love them as much as i do.
    I’m also unable to distinguish, no matter how many times I’m rattled on the head about them, between conjunctions and non conjunctions- is heartbeat one word or two? Note book or notebook?
    I have no idea. It’s a mystery:)
    I’m sure there are many more crazy Tamarisms, but It’s well past my bed time and I must get some zzzz’s:)
    You both made me laugh this evening. Thank you…I always sleep better after a good giggle or two.
    Have a wonderful weekend!!!
    Tamara

  33. #47 by Diana Douglas on August 20, 2011 - 3:09 am

    I have two little darlings that I’m ready to cut, but my critique group isn’t convinced I should. I think I’m going to do it anyway.

    By the way, We Aren’t Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, rocks.

    • #48 by Piper Bayard on August 21, 2011 - 1:12 pm

      I’m all for listening to my inner voice about these things. That’s why Kristen keeps her scalpel handy when she opens my work.🙂

  34. #49 by Kate Larkindale on August 20, 2011 - 3:34 am

    87 characters? Whoo… Makes me tired just thinking about it. I keep my character list tight, so that’s not a part of my problem. It’s the gorgeous metaphors and analogies that trip me up. And the quirky descriptions of things. I know they need to go, but it’s so hard….

  35. #50 by Donna Newton on August 20, 2011 - 7:24 am

    A post with both Piper and Kristen’s humour…….I need a lie down🙂

    I don’t think I had any little darlings in my first novel. In fact, as Kristen pointed out, I didn’t have any characters! I think I’ve rectified that now.

    Kristen and Piper – Have I rectified that now?

    Great post girls. xxx

    • #51 by Piper Bayard on August 21, 2011 - 1:13 pm

      I’ll answer that question if you promise to send me more of your awesome work.

  36. #52 by kerrymeacham on August 20, 2011 - 11:50 am

    LOL – Tag team blog awesomeness – You guys should have a WWF name. How about – The Blog Babes, or Death Star and The Bad-Ass Bayard, or The Nuclear Guinea Pigs, or The LIttle Darling Killers, or OHHHHSTOOPPPPP already. Sorry. When I get on a roll I scare myself. Love, love, loved it guys.

  37. #53 by Crowing Crone Joss on August 20, 2011 - 2:21 pm

    fabulous post. a keeper!

  38. #54 by Darlene Steelman on August 20, 2011 - 2:26 pm

    Great post, Kristen. Piper, I like how you put your post in AA twelve steps and a speaker meeting format. Clever.

    • #55 by Piper Bayard on August 21, 2011 - 1:15 pm

      Thank you, Darlene. I have often told Kristen her job isn’t to teach people to write, it’s to tell them they are verbal alcoholics and need rehab. So it flowed.

  39. #56 by Leanne Shirtliffe on August 20, 2011 - 3:37 pm

    But denial is so fun, isn’t it? That head-in-the-sand theory.

    Like Renee commented, I’m great at killing other people’s little darlings (I have a great crit group). Fortunately, they’re great at killing mine, too. So great that I often hear their voices while I’m writing my first draft. “You don’t need exclamation marks. Your verbs are strong enough.”

    Am I the only writer who occasionally hears other writers’ voices in my head when writing? Is there a 12 step program for that?😉

    And I *love* the serenity prayer.

    Great job, Kristen and Piper.

    • #57 by Piper Bayard on August 21, 2011 - 1:26 pm

      There actually is a therapy program for that, Leanne, but I believe the only step to it is checking in to a hospital.🙂 Thanks for the comment and the compliment.

  40. #58 by Kristie Kiessling (@Narratus) on August 20, 2011 - 4:50 pm

    But… but… I love jello. Especially the green kind. It’s so jiggly.

    I’m sorry, I just can’t…

    *cries*

    Thank you both! Wonderful article!

  41. #59 by Annie Boreson on August 21, 2011 - 12:49 am

    This is absolutely hysterical…and hits a little too close to home. Okay, so I’ll perform a little radical Little Darling surgery on a few who need the boot and maybe sacrifice a few more on an extended volcanic vacation. Thanks for your wisdom and insight. It is greatly appreciated!

  42. #60 by Paul Owen on August 21, 2011 - 4:07 am

    I couldn’t stop laughing from beginning to end. You’d be surprised, actually, how well the problem applies to boardgame design as well. “But it’s got all my favorite elements from my fifteen favorite games. It’s perfect!”

    Game designer Lewis Pulsipher’s favorite quote: “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Antoine de Saint-Exup’ery

    Thanks for the great laugh.

    • #61 by Piper Bayard on August 21, 2011 - 1:27 pm

      Oh, I like that quote. Thank you for that. I’d never thought about it, but I can see how this would definitely apply to games, as well.

  43. #62 by Jami Gold on August 21, 2011 - 2:01 pm

    Love this post! Thank goodness I worked through most of those denial stages in private with my first never-to-be-seen fan-fic novel. 🙂 So I’ve been there and can relate, but I don’t have witnesses. *whew* LOL!

  44. #63 by Sandy on August 21, 2011 - 5:03 pm

    Piper, I remember going through this very thing. It’s never easy to admit your little darling isn’t the greatest story since Gone With the Wind. Smile

  45. #64 by Lafemmeroar on August 21, 2011 - 8:15 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m in the process of writing my novel and the process is both fun and infuriating. Then I put on my crazy hat and become one of my characters, depending on the day I’m either the bumbling investigator or the sly killer.

  46. #65 by Marilag Lubag on August 22, 2011 - 8:52 am

    lol! Not so much as little darlings but I have the tendency not to explain when writing. That’s been the complain of almost anyone who edits my work has said. At first, it went like “what do you mean show not tell?” Too many scenes, too little explanation. Then, I realized that they’re right. It’s the matter of figuring out how to delete those extra scenes and expand on those things that matter the most.

  47. #66 by Xen on August 22, 2011 - 3:15 pm

    Loved this post! I try to keep my writing fairly tight. My LD’s typically manifest as flashbacks. Fortunately, those are SO easy to remove without damaging the surrounding story. And! I never truly lose them. I hoarde them in files labeled “character.book.flashbacks” So I can go and love on my LD’s as often as I’d like and know they will never need to be subjected upon my readers.🙂

    I’d link you on my blog and metion your book, except I have 3 followers, none of which are in the least bit interested in writing, and I haven’t posted on it since december.:\

    • #67 by Author Kristen Lamb on August 22, 2011 - 3:23 pm

      LOL. It counts. Thanks for the compliment and the support😀

  48. #68 by Sabrina Alexander on August 22, 2011 - 4:32 pm

    Loved this post. My husband and I excised whole chapters to kill the darlings. Like Xen, we do save them just in case – in case of what we have no idea.

    I’m going to go link to you on our (mostly his) blog now, and not just because I’d like to win a critique.

  49. #69 by Samuel on August 22, 2011 - 7:52 pm

    Somehow, within all the tongue-in-cheek humor here, its not made perfectly clear what a Little Darling IS, or how to avoid them or edit them during the plotting and writing. How about some clarification please?

    • #70 by Author Kristen Lamb on August 22, 2011 - 8:41 pm

      Yeah, I noticed that after I’d posted. Little darlings are the shiny bits of prose we just love and cannot bear to let go. Often they are the pieces of writing hiding the greatest flaws and weaknesses in our novels. Sorry I overlooked that. Thanks.

  50. #71 by Myndi Shafer on August 24, 2011 - 3:51 pm

    *shivers*

    I’m the one in the back corner, rocking myself and whimpering, muttering, “I don’t have a problem. I don’t know why I came. I’m not like these people.” All the while I’m clutching my precious little darlings to my chest.

    Anyone besides me a little schizo about this? One second I’m saying, “Oh, yeah. That character can totally go. That chapter isn’t necessary. Etc, etc.” The next I’m breaking out into a cold sweat, frantically closing the doc without saving the changes I’d made. “It’s fine the way it was. Those gazillion agents who rejected it are full of shiza.”

    *eye-roll at self*

    Writing, I’ve decided, makes a mess of otherwise well-balanced folk. Lordy.

  51. #72 by Donna J Davis (@donnaamisdavis) on August 24, 2011 - 9:18 pm

    Thanks for this post. You two give a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. Question: how soon should I let a critique group see my WIP? I’m just getting started, and I guess I’m afraid that killing my Little Darlings might leave me spread out on the sidewalk, unable to revive. I need to get over that, don’t I?

  52. #73 by Wendy Dewar Hughes on August 24, 2011 - 10:44 pm

    This is not dissimilar to people who start a business and give it a name that means something only to them, like an inside joke that their customers never get unless it is explained (usually ad nauseum).

    Your use of humour softens the cut but you do speak the truth. When the reader’s experience of the story is more important than the writer’s warm-fuzzies about the “darlings”, good writing can prevail.

  53. #74 by chris on September 6, 2011 - 8:44 pm

    I began tweeting today and I don’t get it. 140 characters? What is that! How many words? Is there some guide you go by? 140? What is that! I mean, what can you possibly say in only

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