Kill your Darlings

So this weekend I saw Dawn French talking to Sue Perkins about Perky’s new book Spectacles. In case you missed that or simply think I’m a despicable liar, I did indeed say Dawn French and Sue Perkins. I met Sue Perkins. She signed my book. I talked at her face.



What made it even more special was they were talking about writing. Almost exclusively. Of course there was a bit here and there about Paul Hollywood’s practical jokes (the rascal), and Mel Giedroyc’s propensity to actually piss herself before going on stage, but the hot topic really was writing. The joys, the stresses, the moments of downright down and out right honourable lunacy, and naturally it got me thinking about writing. I think about writing an awful lot, as if you haven’t got that by now, but this really pushed me to think about my development as a writer.

Like most every writer (or pretend writer like me) I started out thinking writing meant writing. I should clarify, I thought writing in the big, imposing sense of the word – writing – meant putting a pen on paper, creating a masterpiece and pushing it to one side to be published and turn me into the greatest living author of my age. Of course it doesn’t mean that. Composing a piece of writing takes so much more than that, before, during and after the actual act or rite of writing.

Planning takes a huge amount of time. It’s the part where you research if you need any, then you- well, plan. I tend to write an overall plan, a sort of short summary or synopsis, then build that into a (much) longer plan with something like two pages for each chapter. Then all it takes is the actual act or rite of writing, right? Well, yes that comes next, but that’s the easy bit. You are a ‘writer’, right?

So then comes the post-writing part. We dread this. We all do. I hesitate to even speak this dreadful word although I think I will or my point (I do have one) might slip even further into obscurity. Editing.

I feel dirty just saying it. It is, however, a necessary evil. It takes a while to get the knack, but it’s a knack worth getting. It’s easy to think, as a wannabee writer, that great writers of the past don’t edit. That they simply churn out another corker and send it off to be immortalised in print. Not so.

They all do it. So does the other half of Jennifer Saunders, so does dear Susan P. Therefore, henceforth or otherwise, so do I.

Advice: Sometimes you need to cut words, even though it feels like killing your darlings. Sometimes Daniel Radcliffe is not the best choice. Go figure.


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