Little Darlings Anonymous — 12 Steps to Recovery

A Techie Tuesday gift to all my writing friends. . .

Hello. My name is Piper Bayard, and I’m a Little Darling Addict.

Piper Bayard

Meet Piper Bayard

Hi, Piper. Welcome.

Thank you. I’d like to say I’m happy to be here today, but that wouldn’t be true. The fact is, I made up a hundred excuses as to why I didn’t need this meeting. Sure, I knew I had one or two Little Darlings in my writing, but I could get rid of them any time.

And then the little voice inside me . . . You know the one . . . That little voice that calls us on our crap and keeps us from enjoying the denial we wallowed in before we first saw the light of Novel Structure . . .

That little voice told me that if I was fighting this meeting so hard, it was because this was where I needed to be. So I’m here.

*Polite clapping.*

Thank you.

This week, I want to share my Step 7 with you.

I humbly asked my editor to perform Radical Little Darling Extraction Surgery on my WIP and extract all of my Little Darlings. *shudder*

I was so proud of my manuscript.

I had colorful characters, exquisite action, and details about everything from trimming pottery to the nocturnal habits of pet mice. Every clever joke I had ever laughed at was deftly woven in and disguised as meaningful dialogue. All of my favorite people from my whole life were right there in one place.

Of course, none of that had anything to do with my plot, but it was all so sparkly and shiny.

Piper Bayard's Edit Job

Actual photo of my editor at work. (via Canstock)

I didn’t understand at first why my editor took one look at it and broke out a chainsaw. But when she placed the roaring pulverizer at the throat of one of my favorite-but-forced jokes, I fell to my knees, pleading, Noooooo. Not that one.”

At that point, she mercifully cut her engine and guided me through a process I now use to help others in Little Darlings Anonymous.

12 Steps of Little Darlings Anonymous

  1. Admit you are powerless over your imaginary friends, and that your Works In Progress have become unmanageable.
  2. Believe that an Editor greater than yourself can restore your prose to sanity.
  3. Make the decision to turn your will and your manuscripts over to your Editors, whoever you understand them to be.
  4. Undertake a searching and fearless critical inventory of all of the Little Darlings that are wholly irrelevant to your stories.
  5. Admit to your Editors, to yourself, and to your beta readers the exact nature of your self-indulgences.
  6. Become entirely ready to have your Editors remove all the Little Darlings from your Works In Progress.
  7. Humbly ask your Editors to mercilessly slaughter all of your Little Darlings when you do not have the strength to do it yourself.
  8. Make a list of all persons you have subjected to your original manuscript and be willing to make amends to each one who did not kill themselves with sporks by page fifty.
  9. You must make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when doing so would cause them to injure themselves or others at the mere memory of your manuscript.
  10. Continue to undergo edits, and, when your Editors sniff out Little Darlings, promptly submit them for termination.
  11. Seek, through study and daily word count, to improve your conscious contact with your plots, as you understand them, seeking the knowledge to distinguish between Little Darlings and actual elements of your stories.
  12. After experiencing a literary awakening as the result of these Steps, carry this message forward to other Little Darling Addicts, and practice these principles in all of your written endeavors.

I worked the first six steps for months, fruitlessly attempting to justify inappropriate violence, psychotic character behavior, and excessive verbiage that rivaled the unedited version of The Count of Monte Cristo.

But it was no good. The truth was the truth . . .

One Little Darling is too many, and a thousand are never enough.

I had to “Let Go, and Let Editor.” It got bloody fast . . . *sob*

A tissue box appears and arms embrace me.

It’s ok . . . I’m ok, now. *deep breath*

Just as I had humbly asked, my editor showed no mercy.

She hacked my cool “reminiscing over every book we own as we’re hurriedly packing them into hiding” scene. She obliterated my two whole chapters on “finding the fugitive in the hidden cave.” She even vaporized my detailed recitation of Mexican border laws in a post-apocalyptic world, just because none of the action took place at the Mexican border.


And I know this is going to be hard for some of you to hear . . . Believe me. It’s even harder for me to tell you . . .

She removed and autopsied 74 of my 87 main characters. Even after I named them all and shared each of their backgrounds and habits in depth!

Piper Bayard on Editing

Actual sign on my editor’s office door.                    (Photo credit via Canstock)

At first, I was stunned. I thought I was ready for that 7th Step, but when she revved that engine, I didn’t know if my career ambitions would survive.

I even considered running home to my writing group. The one that met every Saturday for fifteen years with no one ever getting published. I needed to hear them tell me, just one more time, how one day, those 587 agents and publishers who turned me down were going to be sorry.

But then, as Little Darling parts flew around me, and the scent of blood and flesh filled my nostrils, a strange transformation took place. Deep down in my gut, I realized something . . . This felt goooooood!

Before I knew it, I was right there next to my editor with a chainsaw of my own. Whacking away monologues, sniping at adverbs, and hunting down three more of those 87 characters who’d hidden in some redundant metaphors.

It wasn’t easy, and I had quite the mess to stitch up by the time we were finished, but now, I have a real plot with relevant characters in place of “tea time with my imaginary friends.”

After oceans of sweat, blood, and pain, my story was saved, and it is now FIRELANDS, a published dystopian thriller.

I’m living proof, folks. The program works when you work it.

Thank you for listening today.

The Writers Serenity Prayer

Grant me the 
to accept that things have got to change;

The courage to
 change the things I can;
And a good
 editor to help me know the difference.

Tell us about your little darlings. Do you know them when you see them? Do you enjoy the slaughter, or do the twelve steps make you want to channel your Inner Bitch Face?

 *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

For any of you who were here yesterday, finding out about the Effit and Effoff Fairies, you’ll know that Piper has a book coming out today!

Risky Brides

Now, I’m writing spy thrillers with Jay Holmes, who is a forty-year veteran covert operative and a senior member of the intelligence community. Our debut novella, THE SPY BRIDE, is in the Bestsellers’ Collection RISKY BRIDES, where we join USA Today Bestsellers Vicki Hinze, Rita Herron, Donna Fletcher, Peggy Webb, and Kathy Carmichael, and veteran authors Kimberly Llewellyn and Tara Randel to share our unique take on what it means to be a risky bride.

8 novels and novellas—8 genres—8 RISKY BRIDES. RISKY BRIDES releases today for only $.99 and is available for a limited time at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, and Kobo.

The Spy Bride Risky Brides Boxed Set final Cover

To celebrate our release, Holmes and I will give away one copy of RISKY BRIDES to someone who comments below. To determine the winner, I will put the names of everyone who comments below in a hat and have my daughter draw one out at random on Friday, October 24, at 9:00 p.m. Mountain Time.

Holmes and I will also be giving away three prizes—a Secret Decoder Ring, a stash of Ghirardelli chocolate, and a bottle of Mumm Napa sparkling wine—to three randomly selected subscribers to our newsletter on November 27. Sign up now for the Bayard & Holmes newsletter to enter.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Piper Bayard is an author and a recovering attorney with a college degree or two. She writes spy thrillers with Jay Holmes, a forty-year veteran covert operative and a current senior member of the intelligence community. Piper is the public face of their partnership.

You can contact Bayard & Holmes in comments below, at their site, Bayard & Holmes, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Bayard & Holmes, or at their email,

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm ( Write on!
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28 Responses to Little Darlings Anonymous — 12 Steps to Recovery

  1. Julie Glover says:

    I LOVED this! I can’t count how many times I’ve had to toss out a beautiful, makes-me-swell-with-pride passage…when I discovered it did nothing whatsoever to move the plot forward. We all need a good Chainsaw Editor to let us know when we get off track.

    (Oh, and I don’t need to be in the drawing. Already have my copy! 🙂 )

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Jenny Hansen says:

    You mean I have to nix all the clever jokes I’ve ever heard?! *breathes into paper bag* Surely you jest… *whimpers*

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That was hilarious! Awesome blog post. And so true! LOLOL I still go back to Self Editing for Fiction Writers, even after 16 novels and a bunch of short stories. Little Darlings have the ability to be reborn as zombies… Congratulations on Firelands and the boxed set!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Piper Bayard says:

      Thank you! I know what you mean. No matter how much I write, they try to creep in. Don’t tell anyone, but sometimes, if they are less than three lines and can be justified as character development, I still let one sneak in here and there.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well now after hearing all of that, I don’t feel so bad about my stuff. I’ve hacked and slashed, then hacked some more, so I think I’ve gotten rid of at least half of the little darlings. But you’re saying there’s more? How can that be? I saved only the very best stuff.

    Fun stuff and very real stuff. We all need to hear it from someone who’s been there. Thanks for the reminders.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    Liked by 2 people

  5. karenmcfarland says:

    Oh my goodness Piper, you made it sound worse than childbirth. Holy Cowbell! So glad you pulled through. But the pain! Little darlings, eh? Not looking forward to the process girl. But an eventuality I’m quite sure. May the force be with you and congratulations! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Piper Bayard says:

      LOL. I suppose it is a form of childbirth, since we all refer to our books as our “babies.” Maybe that’s why writers have a bit of a reputation for drinking and taking drugs. Perhaps those writers are trying to numb the pain . . . I’m sure you’ll do just fine. 🙂


    • Piper Bayard says:

      Karen, you won the drawing for a copy of RISKY BRIDES. Congratulations! Please contact me at and let me know which flavor you prefer . . . Kindle, Nook, iTunes, or Kobo. 🙂


  6. Gene Lempp says:

    This may well be the sweetest post I’ve ever read. Good enough to make this my first comment on a post in almost two years. Absolutely perfect, Piper. Had me in stitches and deep thought at the same time. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. So when are the meetings? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “Firelands” is a great book. Proof that the radical and merciless sacrifice of the little darlings was not in vain! And congrats on the new novella. Good stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. KA-SHNORT! My keyboard thanks you for the green tea herbal therapy delivered when I read, “…who did not kill themselves with sporks by the time they reached page fifty.”

    I owe amends to the crit buddies who read those same fifty pages over and over and over and…ad infinitum.

    I suffer from a phenomenon I call “Beer Truck Smack Down.” It goes something like this: “I LOVE that line scene, situation, character. I must use it/him/her in this manuscript in case I get run over by a beer truck before I can write another one.

    Duh! I won’t make it through the first let alone another one unless I begin slashing. Good stuff, Piper.

    I preordered. Need to bebop to Kindle to see if Risky Bride awaits me — with her 74 dead lovers.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. jonesjar says:

    Great post. I loved th picture with the chain saw.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Carrie says:

    I dread this…I have this horrible feeling the novel I have been laboring over for 3 years will be whittled down to a short story once I “kill” everything 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. yvettecarol says:

    Ha, I laughed most of the way through this. ‘Inner bitch face’ is a brilliant line. I didn’t realize you had your own blog apart from WITS. Must follow~
    Congratulations on allowing the slaughter-fest!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Piper, thanks for this hilarious take on the 12 Steps. Sadly, too many of us suffer from this addiction and far too many continue for years before they are willing to reach out and get help 🙂

    Funny and educational, I thank you. That Serenity Prayer is a hoot !!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Piper Bayard says:

      It is sad to see our fellow writers suffer in their self-destructive cycles. *shakes head* I find the Serenity Prayer to be my most useful tool when I am jonesing. 🙂


  13. Jess Witkins says:

    This post brings back memories. I remember going for dinner at that barbecue joint in Fort Worth at the DFW conference and hearing Kristen and you tell this story. It was fabulously funny because it was so true. And it’s a lesson all writers must learn. Thanks for sharing the story again, Piper.

    And for making me crave barbecue.


  14. Piper Bayard says:

    Congratulations to Karen McFarland, who won the drawing for a copy of RISKY BRIDES!


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