Cleaning out, killing darlings, and putting everything in it’s right place
As I settle back into my apartment in the U.S., I am finding myself reorganizing. I’ve got closets full of things I haven’t used in years, drawers filled with too many of one sort of thing, and odds and ends haphazardly put in various cabinets. My apartment is cluttered and overflowing with things I haven’t touched or even thought about in years. Some are necessary, a lot I can just get rid of.
Even harder is the fact that I need to reduce the number of books in my apartment. Books! How can I get rid of books? They’re my darlings. My heart. My companions! But I’ve simply got too many.
As I’m doing all this cleaning out and reorganizing, I’m also editing my latest book and preparing to start plotting my next one. It’s strange how the two activities overlap so perfectly.
As I clean my cabinets, I’m cleaning up my prose. As I reorganize my possessions, so too am I reorganizing my scenes. As I decide on which books to give away, I need to decide on which sentences and scenes I can remove from my book to give my characters space to grow and breathe.
Cleaning out is hard. It’s not easy to remove things, to give them away or throw them out, but it’s just as necessary as it is to reorganize your words and ideas so that your story moves along at the right pace and in a logical fashion.
I’m using my best judgment to decide what should go—how long has it been since I’ve read a particular book and how likely is it that I’m going to read it again; does a particular sentence move my scene forward or a scene move the story? Should I move it or just get rid of it altogether?
It hurts to get rid of things I’ve grown attached to. It’s not easy to remove sentences, paragraphs or scenes—I’ve grown attached to them as well. But if I’m never going to use these things anymore or read a particular book having it cluttering up my bookshelf isn’t a good thing. Likewise, if a scene doesn’t move the story forward or help my character move deliberately toward or away from their goal, it doesn’t belong in my book.
Am I actually throwing anything away? No, not at all! I’m sending the books on to a new home where they can be loved by someone else. I’m saving my removed scenes to share with my readers in my newsletter so they can see how the story and characters changed. It may feel like I’m losing something, but in fact, I’m gaining breathing space, clarity, and flow.
It’s hard to clean out and reorganize, but in the end, both my apartment and my book will be the better for it.