Wednesday, May 8, 2013

100 Writers Project: Kill Your Darlings!

Introducing Jesse Rebock!

About ten years ago (that'd put me in middle school, I suppose), I took up a pen and decided I'd write a story. After a hundred video games, books, and movies, how hard could it be, right? Heck I've been telling stories long before that - not that they were any good - but a novel, eh? Now there's a challenge.

Several revisions, a hundred epiphanies, and ten years later, I figured I'd finally gotten it down. It wasn't as though I'd spent all that time working solely on writing, but after picking up the hobby and deciding to make it a serious business, I edited and wrote and patched and fixed and edited again. I even attended the Writer's Digest Conference of 2013 and pitched my book idea at a multitude of agents, having garnered enough confidence from peers and anonymous critiquers alike.

But I came to a horrible realization. This book, the first of planned series of seven (maybe eight), was wrong.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing the story, got very involved with the characters, and especially loved piecing together the setting. I had written histories, bloodlines, even finished a rough-draft of book two. The characters and the world(s) in which they lived were as alive in my mind as a celebrity is to …well, to a normal person. I had gotten loads of positive response and praise until I spoke to one person who changed everything.

And all she did was ask me the simplest of questions, even after reading it herself. "What is the plot?"

I couldn't answer, and was horrified because of it.

I realized that this story, this "gateway" breakout novel, was little more than the ramblings of a teenager, without direction or meaning or subtext. Over the years, the story stuck with me, and I kept adding to it, eventually laying a plot line over the "journey" that I had spent years polishing. But said plot-line was not only sub-par, it was boring.

So lo and behold, I found myself in a position I would never have thought myself to see. Rewriting a book, yeah, that's feasible. Roll up the old sleeves and crack your knuckles, it's going to be a lot of work. But I had attended a Pitch Slam only weeks before, and was still waiting to hear back from the last of the agents. At this point, I'd heard from a few who'd read samples, and was rejected. But now, with the new-found realization that I not only needed to, but wanted to fix the novel, I actually felt relief in seeing the rejections.

After all, what if one of them actually said they liked it, and wanted to see more? I would have to turn them down. Turn THEM down.  Who ever heard of a first-time up-and-coming writer turning down the publishers?

So after a few days of contemplation (and they thought I was working at my day job! Ha~ha, nice try sucka!) I formed an idea. Scrapped it. Played with some other ideas. Something stuck. I'll skip this part - you all know how chaotic and subjective the creative process can be. Suffice it to say, I put my mind to the grindstone. Is that even a phrase? You know, put so much concentrated, prolonged mental effort that you work up an appetite despite lunch concluding fourteen minutes ago.

I did what I had dreaded - I went back to square one. The story was not scrapped entirely, for there is much that remains in it that I will salvage, but there's going to be some serious trimming and the addition of two story-lines coinciding with the original ­solo. I made a plan, I used spreadsheets, I jotted down ideas on Post-Its and transcribed them to digital later.

The short of it: I now have a plot (gasp), and by extension a better story. Gathered a bunch of proverbial phoenix downs after ritualistically slaying my books original premise, and without getting into details, well, I'm more emboldened and excited than ever.

I have taken up two new mantras as a direct result of this event in my writing career.

“Books aren't written - they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it.”
― Michael Crichton


“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
― Stephen King, On Writing

Fantasy Writer, Health Nut, Mango Slayer. I'm kind of a self-described audiophile and harbor a passion for trivia. I was born in Connecticut, raised in the Catskills of New York, and matured in New Jersey. I’ve traveled a little - been to Alaska and S. Korea - and hope to travel more in the future; life is an experience and I’m hoping to experience quite a lot. I have a degree in Fine Arts, have taught English as a
Second Language, and have a penchant for listing things in threes. Also really enjoy mythology and linguistics - often lacing my writings
with hidden meanings and dastardly names.

Favorite and/or Influential Books:  Shogun (James Clavell), Ravnica: City of Guilds Trilogy (Cory J. Herndon), Dune (Frank Herbert), Foundations (Isaac Asimov), The Hobbit (Yeah yeah…)

If you're interested in learning more about Jesse Rebock, follow him on Twitter, or check out his blogs, (more traditional blog posts) (Fantasy Writings for public viewing.)

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