It’s November, and that means NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. The month when you work like mad to hit 50,000 words in thirty days. It’s an insane activity to take part in, but I’m going to give you a huge piece of advice, a key component to successfully making the goal.
You must reject the age-old writing adage to kill your darlings.
This idea, to kill your darlings, simply means that when we’re writing the first draft of our novel, we will have parts of the novel that we love with all of heart, but they also happen to be the parts that don’t do anything for the story itself. They don’t push the story forward, they may even be wildly self-indulgent, and while we may love them dearly, they simply have to go.
They are our darlings, and they have to be killed for the greater good of the story, as painful as that might be.
But in fact, November is a magical month! It is the month that your darlings will love you, because not only are they permitted to live, but like little bunnies, they are encouraged to multiply at abandon, because your darlings are what will help you reach that golden number of your word count goal. This is why you breed them, why you allow them to exist at all. They will be the ones that help to carry you all the way to the finish line, and to the winner’s circle, so that you can get that cool little winner’s avatar and display it on Facebook and Twitter for all the losers to see and envy.
Of course, it’s best not to let them in on the secret that – like the mandrakes from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – they are only being bred to help you fulfill a grander purpose, that your intention is only to use them, and that when the time comes they will be chopped up into little bits and boiled up in a potion to help free Mrs. Norris from her petrification.
Yes, one day most of your precious darlings will have to die, and this is very sad.
But this is November, and it’s not the month to lament. This is the month to revel in their creation, to encourage their reproduction, to massage them and make them feel like they are the most wonderful darlings to ever come out of the imagination of any writer since humanity first began organizing words onto papyrus back in Ancient Egypt.
And then, come December, they will die. Most certainly, they will have to die.
But not until December.
So for now, breed your darlings, writer. Breed your lovely little darlings to your heart’s content.
Nate Fleming is using NaNoWriMo 2014 to write the first draft of Thimblerig’s Ark Book Two: Forty Days and Nights, the sequel to Thimblerig’s Ark, published in March 2014, which he also wrote in a past NaNoWriMo. So far, he’s written many more darlings in his first draft than he’d care to admit, but he looks forward to some bloodletting when time to edit and revise rolls around.