An interesting concept if you are a writer. The term has been assigned to Stephen King in his book on writing. A book I must admit I have never read. However, I ran across this terminology several years ago and came to believe in it.
So, what exactly is meant by “killing your babies?”
The term refers to eliminating writing from a manuscript or work because it doesn’t fully apply to the work at hand and yet, it is often the best writing of the piece in question. Therefore, it is like killing your babies when you must remove them.
I run into this a lot as an editor and publisher. I have written about it several times in this blog. It is a concept I simply can’t get away from. Take the recently published Gigolo 2. The first draft was a whopping one hundred and three thousand words. The book was what most would call an epic. Yet, what we are publishing is a series so the first thing we had to do was break it up into parts that our readers would enjoy and want to come back for more.
The come back for more is an essential part of publishing. After all, we aren’t doing this for our good looks. We set out to publish books no one else would, due to censorship, but we can’t do that if we don’t have any revenue. Money may not buy love but it sure does let us write about it.
Now the Gigolo series is a dark comedic look at a man who has chosen to become a male whore. He has several troubles and seeks to solve them. In the solving, he encounters several people who both help him and hurt him. In essence the gigolo is a user. He uses people but finds himself also being used which brings a certain humility and fatalism to the character.
Lavender Mills, the writer, spent two years writing the tome she submitted as the second in the series. From there we started crafting the work into the series we wanted to provide. It has been a hard work emotionally as both Lavender and I are emotionally attached to the character and what happens to him and the supporting characters.
Which is why we had to kill our babies. As we progressed into creating Gigolo 2, many of the scenes and several chapters had to go. They were written exceptionally well. We had formed an attachment to them. However, in the end the chapters and scenes we decided to cut did not allow the story to flow from one scene to the next.
This is a hard decision to make believe me. Those chapters contained several of Lavender’s best and they worked well together. They simply didn’t work well with the story as it was being crafted.
I started out working with Lavender as a collaborator. This has helped when it has come to exert a certain amount of pressure to make changes. Most authors hate editors. They often don’t want to change a single word. Don’t want anything from an editor but great emotional support.
This never happens. Often it is the reverse. Sometimes the editorial process creates a great deal of stress between an author and their editor. The publisher often doesn’t help. Publishers like to follow a certain format that they know sells books. If a story deviates from this, they want their editors to take an author’s story and adjust it until it fits their formats or styles. Another thing which causes stress among editors and authors.
However, if you have worked as a collaborator with an author, it helps to see their view as well as to demonstrate your views. I admit, I have often come to hard arguments with many of our authors. People I consider to be good friends of mine. These arguments often produce the best ideas or edits.
In the end, you must understand when you submit your work it will be criticized by those who seek to make it your best. It also will be criticized by those who seek to sell it. As a writer you must find the balance in what you will allow, as will the editor. Regardless of what happens, you will have to “kill your babies.”
If you can’t face this, life as a writer will be tough.
I’m Ross, the Editor-in-Chief at The Pyrateheart Press and I’m out.