A Techie Tuesday gift to all my writing friends. . .
Hello. My name is Piper Bayard, and I’m a Little Darling Addict.
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.
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.
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
- Admit you are powerless over your imaginary friends, and that your Works In Progress have become unmanageable.
- Believe that an Editor greater than yourself can restore your prose to sanity.
- Make the decision to turn your will and your manuscripts over to your Editors, whoever you understand them to be.
- Undertake a searching and fearless critical inventory of all of the Little Darlings that are wholly irrelevant to your stories.
- Admit to your Editors, to yourself, and to your beta readers the exact nature of your self-indulgences.
- Become entirely ready to have your Editors remove all the Little Darlings from your Works In Progress.
- Humbly ask your Editors to mercilessly slaughter all of your Little Darlings when you do not have the strength to do it yourself.
- 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.
- 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.
- Continue to undergo edits, and, when your Editors sniff out Little Darlings, promptly submit them for termination.
- 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.
- 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!
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?
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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!
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.
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.
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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.