Slay your Babies & Other Advice for Fiction Writers

        Editing is my least favorite part of writing. Sadly, it’s also the most important part of writing anything that’s actually worth reading. Anyone can fill up a page with words, but to write well you have to know which words to leave there and which ones to take away.  So I do it. Oh, how I suffer for my art….
        Anyway, I recently had a conversation with a writer friend of mine (who we’ll call WF) about the need for editing. It went something like this:
WF: Have you ever written something and you suspected while you were writing it that it was great and then you finished and it WAS great and then it was so great that it required no work or thought or editing because it was already so great? (probably not a direct quote)
JY: Sure, all the time. Then I remind myself of some advice I got from a college professor of mine and I force myself to look at it anyway.
WF: What was the advice?
JY: Slay your babies.*
WF: Excuse me?
JY: I said Slay. Your. Babies.
WF: Yeah, that’s what I thought you said.
    I know it sounds harsh, but it’s probably the most important writing lesson I ever learned. Sam, the workshop professor who taught it to me, wouldn’t tolerate mollycoddling of any kind in his class. He’d sit at the front of the room and if he felt that one of us was cradling our precious work a little too gently, he’d shout out, “What’s the only rule, Miss Young?” The answer, the only rule, was “Slay your babies.”
    By that he meant that anything and everything you write needs editing. It needs finessing. It needs work. Hence first drafts and second drafts and rounds of revisions. Even if you love something, even if you are 100% sure it’s the best thing you have ever written, even if it pains you physically to do it, you still need to rip it apart. In fact, if Sam were here right now, he’d probably say you owe it to the work to rip it apart.
    Anyway, I thought I’d pass that along. What’s the best advice about writing you ever got? Tell me all about it in the comments. Maybe we can help each other out.

* Just for the record, I am vehemently anti-infanticide. I am also against shoving the elderly, kicking a man when he’s down, and horse violence of any kind.


3 thoughts on “Slay your Babies & Other Advice for Fiction Writers

  1. Well said. Just off the whole freaking lot of them and savor the delicious meat clinging to the bones. Sounds a little gruesome, but hey, I have issues and it’s Monday.

  2. I found your site after reading your book – which I loved by the way 🙂 I’m working on my book now, only about 18K words in. The advice I’ve been following to get my butt in gear and finally do that writing I’ve dreamed of for years is 1) stop talking about it and write it already, 2) write a certain number of words every day, and 3) stop going back to re-read and edit what I’ve just written. That third one was really slowing me down – I wasn’t moving forward because I continuously picked at my first few chapters.

    • Hi Bethany, Thanks for reading, and especially for liking, Inbetween. Book 2 will be out in December. = ) More importantly though, good for you for getting to work on your book. Can I offer you one more piece of writing advice? Then I swear I’ll stop. Whatever happens, just keep going. Believe me, there are very few things that feel as good as reaching “The End.”

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