WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WRITING?
That’s easy: my inner editor. I named her Darla. She’s kinda mean and doesn’t have a creative bone in her body. The artistic side of my brain loves everything I write. All of it. A total cheerleader who tells me all my stories are fun-tastic. Then Darla, my left brain, taps me on the shoulder.
“Mind if I have a look?” She starts deleting stuff right off.
“Not at all," I tell her but the truth is, I mind very much.
Darla knows all the facts about what industry professionals want. She reads tons of blogs. Plus, she remembers stuff from the editors, publishers and authors who’ve edited my work before. When I remind Darla that those professionals are much nicer to me than she is, she gives me a ‘this is for your own good’ look. It’s hard to grumble with someone who claims they’re doing something for your own good.
Now, we both know Darla’s role is an essential part of getting a story ready for other readers. That picky business of checking commas, grammar, sentence length, tense and such, takes a long time and is a total yawn-fest to my right brain. But it usually does help. Even if I hate admitting when she’s right.
Last week Darla and I nearly came to blows.
I was sending my 130-page novel to an agent. Darla felt I needed to summarize it in one short and powerful sentence. For the record, describing any book as a single sentence is like trying to turn the thousand-odd pages of War and Peace into a 17-syllable Haiku.
I began my sentence with, “Gifted 11-year-old Cora –“
“Too long,” Darla announced.
“Too long?” I looked at the few words I’d typed. “What would you suggest I cut?”
“The gifted part. And her age. Also, they don’t need to know her name yet.”
“That’s – that’s all of it. You just cut the whole thing.”
I kept my cool and tried again. “To keep herself and her brother out of foster care, a young girl must –“
“Take out the brother,” Darla said.
“Jimmy? But that’s her motivation for solving the mystery.”
“Does he know that?”
“Don’t be snarky. You know what I mean.”
I typed out a new sentence slowly, one eye on Darla. “To save her family, a young girl must get her mom back before anyone knows she ran off and –”
“Hm,” she squinted over my shoulder and made a face. “Do we really need the mom?”
“Most kids like having one.”
Darla gave me her side-eye and said, “Keep it simple. Isn’t this really about a smart girl who solves mysteries?”
“You mean like Nancy Drew?”
“At least I should mention the Instagram influencers who help her. That’s a major plot point.”
Okay, how about “a smart girl and her friends solve mysteries?”
“Is there a dog in your book?”
I shook my head.
“Well, there, it’s not like Scooby-Doo at all.”
After only four more hours of wrangling, we managed to find ten words that made us both (but mostly Darla) happy. Writing is fun. Editing is hard. If you wrote something, you can borrow Darla. Please.