Killing your writing babies…

I heard the phrase “killing your writing babies” when I first started and didn’t really get what it meant until I went to my first critique group meeting.  I had only written one chapter on my first ever novel and as you can imagine I was a bit taken aback at all of the comments, feedback and markings all over the page. Yes, that’s back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and we still critiqued on paper…lol!  Now we do it all online, but that was back in 2003 when we first started – you know, back there before the first electric light and all of that 🙂 Anyway – I digress.  There were a few sentences that I thought were particularly well written and I liked the sound of them.  I knew they were grammatically correct but I just really liked how they sounded and was quite proud of how I’d written them.  Very “writerly”, if you get my drift.  Yes, you can see where this is going.  Every single one of my new critique partners pointed out those few sentences as way too flowery and not really saying what I was trying to say.  In other words, I wasn’t stating plainly what I was trying to say – I was going for flowery writing and losing the reader. Yes, it was hard to hear, but wow, am I glad they all told me, and that that lesson has stuck with me all these years later.  If you read my writing now I’m pretty sure I’m fairly straightforward and that you won’t find a lot of flowery.  I’ve been told my books are a pretty fast paced read – not just for the action (or sex, depending on the book…snicker) but for the writing style.  And some people are confused at why I’m happy to hear that feedback.  It’s mainly because after I received that feedback I started paying attention to what I was reading.  I figured out which authors I read wrote flowery and  which wrote more straightforwardly.  And I realized the books in the latter category were the ones I usually couldn’t put down.  Granted, they also needed to have wonderful, complex and engaging characters as well as a well developed and believable plot, but I took the lesson and ran with it. So one of my pieces of advice for new writers is to not fall in love with your ‘babies’.  That could be a particular sentence, a way of describing things, a particular phrase you like to say (or write), a plot point, a certain setting or scene etc.  Sometimes those things won’t work within the story, or will NOT make it a better story or a better read.  And as an author, your job (and hopefully your goal) is to give readers the best book you possibly can which hopefully means they will fall in love with your characters and your stories enough so they want to read not only everything you’ve written but re-read what they already have read.  Our stories give readers not only an escape, but stress relief, a mini vacation, keeps their minds alert and a whole host of other things. So, as I heard one author tell a particularly stubborn newbie – “Put on your big girl panties, stop whining about what you THINK the readers SHOULD want, and go write a damn good book that your readers will love!  That’s your job so get to it!” 🙂 I’ve always remembered that, and every time I get discouraged I remind myself to “put on my big girl panties and get to it!” And on that note, I’m off to get back to writing and kill off any “babies” I find that aren’t adding to my story.  Off to be ruthless! 🙂

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