Have you ever heard the phrase “Kill Your Darlings” in regards to writing and revising a memoir manuscript (or any kind of manuscript!)?
It refers to the editing process, and how much you need to cut from a manuscript to make it shine.
All those words, phrases, chapters, scenes… months of writing work – bam. Delete.
When you think about that term for more than a second, it really is very brutal!
I was reminded how shocking it can feel to realise you need to do this KYD work on our first coaching call for the Art of Memoir this week.
One of my students was searching for a new way to begin the story, as she knew what she had wasn’t working (she’d sent the manuscript off on submission and had no response). After a bit of digging past what she had written, we got to the crux of what the story is REALLY about.
And here’s the rub: often what you need to WRITE to get to the real story will then need to be deleted if you want your story to be compelling to a wider audience. It’s the difference between writing a journal and writing for publication. You need to narrow it down. Chisel. Cut. Focus.
This happened to me during the drafting process for A Letter From Paris. I wrote eight thousand words (it took me weeks) on a particular person who was crucial to the plot of the story, only to delete all but two sentences.
But…. that writing was NECESSARY.
Because in the process of diving into the significance, the meaning, the events and part that person / character played in the bigger story, I uncovered precious clarity around the two sentences that actually needed to go into the finished book!
Which brings me to a beautiful quote I love to think about when i’m working on a tricky piece of writing…
I saw the angel in the marble and i carved until I set him free
It’s a softer way to think about the ‘artfulness’ involved in re-writing, editing, revising and making our stories clearer, sharper, more poignant… I’d rather think I’m setting something free than killing a beautiful thing!
I’d much prefer to think of that work as an artist, carving and chiselling… to set the best version of the story free.
This necessary ‘carving’ (aka revision) is also the difference between getting a memoir to publication standard and sending out a draft (or self-publishing) when there’s so much more work that could be done to make it shine.
If you’d like to learn my process to write, revise and polish a memoir draft in 6 months – to publication standard – I’ve just edited a video training you can sign up to watch on demand right here.
Inside the training – how to write and revise your memoir in months – I walk you through my process to drafting efficiently, simply and without wasting years on a draft that’s completely unworkable.
I also share more info on my signature coaching programme for memoir writers who want to master their manuscript: The Art of Memoir.
The Art of Memoir now includes a special deadline incentive for every single member because I truly believe if we can’t make a deadline feel real, it’s too easy to let ourselves off the hook from meeting it!
The Art of Memoir also now includes monthly group coaching (small groups, don’t worry) led by me and a co-host who KNOWS publishing (she used to work as a literary agent for memoir) and of course, there’s the 10-course curriculum itself which covers EVERYTHING a first-time memoir author needs to learn about this widely misunderstood genre.
Do you want to finish your draft, or write and revise it in a clear and efficient way?
It’s incredibly liberating to know how to ‘set the angel free’…