One of my favorite quotes about writing comes from Arthur Quiller-Couch. Some better-known names have made variations of the quote more popular, but the original is still my favorite:
Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.
If I was going to throw one quote at a new writer, this would be it. It’s the best way I know to illustrate that surprisingly difficult balance between thinking you have no good ideas and thinking you have only good ideas.
You want to pay attention to all the light bulbs that go off while you’re writing a rough draft, because you never know when you’ll stumble over something really good. That said, your brilliant ideas – your darlings – mostly end up just being pretentious writing that should be cut mercilessly.
This quote from Mr. Quiller-Couch is advice I’ve tried to follow for most of my career as an indie author, but for the next month, it’s advice I’m going to be scrapping.
Tomorrow kicks off National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. All around the world, authors are going to spend the next thirty days furiously scribbling, typing, and dictating in an effort to hit 50,000 words before December 1. This time around, I’m not quite shooting for 50,000, but I do have fairly ambitious goal.
I’ve decided I want to write, edit, and publish the next installment in The Crimson Ace series, all during the month of November. I’ve done a little planning for the book, but otherwise, all the work will happen between November 1 and 30.
If you’re not familiar with it, The Crimson Ace is a superhero novella I wrote last year under a pen name. The goal of the book was to have an outlet to just let loose and have fun. I wasn’t going to agonize over internal logic and comma placement. If I had fun, then I’d accomplished my goal. If something made me laugh or even smile while I was first writing it, I was going to leave it in for the final cut. It didn’t matter how cheesy the joke was or how little it made sense for the character to do something like that. The Crimson Ace was a place where all my darlings were safe.
It was an absolute blast to write, and a great way to remind myself that one of the biggest reasons I write is because it’s fun to play make-believe on a keyboard.
So my NaNoWriMo project this year will be another Crimson Ace book, which you will (hopefully) be able to read on November 30. I’m hoping to post updates on how the journey is going for anyone curious about what the whole process looks like.
And you have my word: No darlings will be harmed in the making of this book.
In the meantime, you can read the thrilling origin of The Crimson Ace here.