Friday, 8 July 2016

Fragments of writing

Hello there,

welcome to my new fortnightly post.

During the process of working through my latest novel, I have been doing a lot of what is referred to as, killing your darlings. That means, removing chunks of writing, regardless of how good it is, if it does not add sufficiently to the story or characters.

You see, printed words cost money - the more words, the more costly the book is to publish and print. Therefore, anything that does not enhance the story or assist in developing the characters must go.

Not only that, but it also improves the reader's experience so they're not wading through pages of stuff that really doesn't need to be there.

Whenever I kill my darlings, I remove these chunks of writing and save them in a separate document - imaginatively called, Fragments. Nothing is ever deleted.

When I worked through this process with both Torn and Inviolate, as well as my short stories, I created my Fragment files and over the course of editing and redrafting, sometimes those fragments were recycled and reused. Sometimes that meant shuffling them around to different chapters, reworking them to fit context and timeline, and also borrowing some of the phrasing to elaborate an existing section of work.

More often than not, however, these pieces remain in their Fragments file and occasionally, if I'm in the mood, or even looking for inspiration, I'll read over them.

Torn was published in 2013. That's just over three years ago now and in that time I have rarely looked over its Fragments file. A couple of days ago, though, I did open the Torn Fragments doc and while nostalgically browsing through the bits and pieces saved there, I came across a few interesting little scenes. I thought I might share some with you over the coming posts.

This one is a discussion that takes place between my main protagonist Alexandra and her maid Janet. If you haven't read Torn, you may not find any interest in this excerpt, however if you have read it, you might enjoy it.

I remember when I killed this particular darling, I did it because it didn't tell the reader anything new, or anything that enhanced the reading experience. Years later, after the excitement of Torn has died down, these little grabs are fun to read. So here goes!

During this time I spent much time in the kitchens with Cook helping her with the fruits. We made jams and compotes, sealing them tightly in ceramic jars to be stored away for winter.

Working the butter churn afforded me a new respect for the strong young girls who, working in pairs, kept the household in fresh, creamy butter.

As winter approached, night closed in earlier, more time was spent before roaring fires than out beneath the Great Oak. And still, there was no word from Simon or Patrick.

I was sitting by the fire in my room when Janet brought in a pot of chocolate. The drink’s popularity had grown considerably over recent years. The imposition of a rather heavy tax on cocoa imports had only served to increase chocolate consumption among those inclined to impress their friends – my mother included.

Janet and I sat before the fire and savoured the drink’s spicy flavour. She held her cup between her two hands and turned to me. She looked very serious.

"May I confide a secret?"

"Of course," I said, putting my cup down.

"I'm in love," she said without preamble.

The surprise must have registered on my face for she blushed and looked away.

"You’ve kept that quiet.” I searched my mind the possible object of her interest. "Are you going to share his identity?"

"Grahame," she said, and her eyes met mine again, "Lord Hamish's groom."

She waited for my reaction, and when I said, “Oh, Grahame," she nodded happily.

"What do you think?"

"Well, I had no idea, of course, but … I imagine he's nice enough. I’ve not really had any contact with him." I knew she was expecting me to say more, but my mind was racing, for surely she had considered that my marriage to Hamish would pave the way for her future with his groom. Suddenly the walls seemed to be closing in about me. "He is quite pleasing to the eye," I said distantly.

She reddened again. "Yes, he is."

"And does he return your feelings?"

"He does."

"Then you will be seeking permission to wed."

"Not yet," she laughed gaily. “We thought we would wait until you and Lord Hamish are wed first."

I nodded thoughtfully. I certainly did not need any further pressure on that score.

"But, Miss Alex," she leaned forward in her chair, her eyes shining, "he writes such things, and ... he makes me feel so ... alive, so excited to be alive. Does that make sense?"

It made perfect sense for I’d felt that similar excitement to be alive whenever I was near Patrick. At least the object of her affection was attainable and seemed to return her regard.

I congratulated her and sipped the last of my chocolate, and she regaled me with tales of Grahame’s gallantry and wondrous strength, and I found myself smiling for her happiness, while wondering what my own future held.

 Well, there you go! I hope you enjoyed that little snippet. If you did, let me know - I have plenty more!

See you in 14!


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