41 thoughts on “Writing Excuses Episode 3: Killing your Darlings”

  1. Heh, I’ve got to stop listening to this in the computer lab at school… the whole spitting all over the table thing made me laugh really loud. I got a lot of dirty looks from engrossed students.

    Excellent episode once again!

    (Also, thanks again for last week’s podcast. The discussion about taking familiar ideas and blending them with something new helped me make a point in Shakespeare paper I was writing that I hadn’t been able to articulate previously.)

  2. Thank you, I think I have a Trill with a white cat that needs to die somewhere in cyberspace. I’ll let you know how the funeral goes.

  3. Believe it or not, the first two podcasts have helped me. Usually classes and books on writing focus on technical issues rather than style. Most of those seem more concerned with selling a book to an editor rather than to an audience.

    The first real class that helped me was a workshop by small-time author Regina Doman, held at my college a few years ago. She hardly spent any time on word tricks or even scene structure, and focused more on strong plot elements, well-rounded characters, and writing for one’s intended audience. She is terrific at romance (in both the modern sense of the love story as well as the older sense of an adventure story; her books are a blend of both), and can teach her skills to other writers with an ease I can only envy.

    You guys are the same sort of people. You are all widely-read, learned from experience, and can communicate your knowledge easily. The second podcast has stuck in my mind for the last week, and has really been making me rethink my own writing. I’ve been at a loss on several points for months, partly because I’ve been recovering from a long illness, but listening to these has gotten me working on story notes again. I can’t tell you how much that means to me.

    I have no doubt that listening to this third podcast will do the same thing. Now if only you guys could slap together something that will make me want to write my term papers as much!

  4. Matthew:
    You said that some people who try to teach writing are “more concerned with selling a book to an editor rather than to an audience.” I can tell you without equivocation that anyone who honestly thinks there’s a difference doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Good editors know what the audience wants, and the buy the books they know they can sell to readers. Lou Anders, the editor for Pyr, put it this way at Worldcon ’06: “The best way to get published is to write a good book. That’s what people want to read, and that’s what editors want to buy.”

  5. Dan,

    I understand the point you’re making about editors (and do not disagree), but I think Matthew was simply lamenting that formal educators are rarely writers. So, it is refreshing to hear how authors deal with character growth and plot development. Aspiring writers have the hardest time with these two elements because we are inexperienced – and no amount of technique training will provide that experience.

    It may be true that, “The best way to get published is to write a good book.” However, finding a concise and repeatable way of teaching how to write a good book is rarely achieved.

  6. Yes, absolutely. My comment wasn’t meant as a slight on Matthew in any way, I was just trying to say that he needs to be careful who he gets his writing advice from. If someone is teaching a silly thing like “try to appeal to editors over readers,” they’re probably not the best source of info.

  7. You know, I’m loving these episodes you guys are posting! I’ve dabbled in trying to write a book myself and so these are giving me some real insight in what to do.

    As an aside: Listening to this podcast really makes me look forward to the final book of the Wheel of Time series, I already love Schlock, and I need to pick up some books by Mr. Wells :D

  8. Also, a suggestion for Sprig, design-wise. Can this blog template use a widget that notes where the most recent comments were posted on the sidebar? I find that useful on sites like this that are built around discussions that may continue beyond the first day of the post, to know at a glance if there’s anything new. Just a thought–it really doesn’t matter, but I thought it might be an interesting element if you had a spot for it in the design.

  9. The conversation, and especially the part about one’s first works heavily reminded me of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. He killed the series quite a few times, but always came back. And all this appeared even in the very same series.
    In th end the books turned out well, but going back to the beginning when you’re finished it quite horrible.
    Maybe he should have left if dead. :)

  10. I just wanted to send a thank you for taking the time out for these podcasts. Informative, entertaining, and really motivating, knowing that there are others who encounter the same snares and pit-falls. Thank You.

  11. I’ve just experienced again, a different twist on killing your darlings. I have some darlings, a character, a setting, a situation, and a futuristic TV show (of all things). They work as great triggers for me. Each of them has begun two or more stories. None of them survive to be in any of the stories yet. They always get dropped out. But, boy, do they keep giving ideas.

    Love the podcast. I’m so glad I saw the “why mormon’s make great SF writers” comment on Jay Lake’s blog link to Geek Dads. I’m hooked. Is the next one ready? :-)

  12. Guerry: The next Writing Excuses podcast is ready, and should be updating here in the next few hours. I’m not sure exactly when Jordo posts ’em, though.

  13. I try to have new episodes up around 10pm MST the Sunday before but that’s just when I prefer to do this–I do make sure they’re up my midnight MST.

  14. Yep we are in the middle of hacking a story right now…. Story ended up as 16K, cutting every other word sounds funny. but we are making progress.
    Kevin and Karen

  15. Thanks to this episode I have killed my first novel. I am torn up about it. Thanks for the tough love. It is also terrifying. But I do agree that the process itself was important. My narrative may not have worked, but the experience is with me.

  16. I am in the process of writing a novel and this episode is helping me to not just kill, but murder my characters

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